Monday, March 18, 2019

Writing Checks and Checking Out

There are two things I want to talk about this week.

Is Maryland the New Oregon?
Two weeks ago, the state of Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to allow doctors to prescribe to patients with less than six months to live, a fatal dose of medication to allow them to end their lives. The bill passed narrowly, 74-66, with a vote in the State Senate still to come.

Opposition to the bill is coming from usual religious types, like the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is not unpredictable. Archbishop Lori said that the bill would “further undermine the dignity of life.

I would ask the Archbishop how dignified it is to live out your final days in agonizing pain, or in a drug-induced stupor, forced to have others tend to your waste processes.

This issue is a lot like the abortion issue, wherein people from outside of your family want to make painful, personal decisions for you, admonishing you to abide by their own morals and not yours.

I would posit that the opposition comes from families who have never had a loved one suffer through a painful, drawn-out death. Or those who have never had to contemplate helping a loved one die peacefully while risking murder charges themselves. Otherwise, they might think twice about putting anyone else through that kind of torture.

Obviously, there should be safeguards in a law like this, preventing patient coercion. Great care must be taken that this is a path the patient chooses to take, for their own benefit and not to avoid the inconvenience of others. Authors of this bill say there are such safeguards, critics say there are not… Just like every other political debate going on. The two houses should be able to bang out some protections to calm any reasonable objections.

Granted, they’ll never calm the philosophical ones, so that leaves us to again fight the MYOB fight.

One thing the law does have in its favor is that the state of Oregon has had an assisted suicide law on the books for years. My friend and Oregonian, the Infidel, may know better, but I haven’t read of any rash of terminal patient suicides; in fact, I heard the number actually decreased after passage. That disarms some of the scare tactics opponents throw around about how people will be lining up to bump off their parents and claim their inheritance. Or people making rash decisions that they will regret, albeit for a very short time.

I know I’ll feel a lot better if this law gets all the way to passage. Then if one day, in what I hope is the very distant future, I’m wracked with pain on my deathbed, I can check out on my own terms without having to drag my sorry carcass out to the car and run a hose from the exhaust pipe.

The College Bribery Scandal
I so wish it involved Colgate University so we could call it “Colgate-gate.” And if Bill Gates was involved but got away with it, the headline would be Bill Gates Skates Colgate-gate. (I could go on, but I already did, once. I hate the whole “Adding ‘Gate’ to Every Scandal” trope.)

It’s only an important scandal if celebrities are involved, right? That’s why the only people we know about who are implicated in this pay-for-admittance deal are the two Hollywood actresses. You’d think it was a whole Hollywood undertaking. It’s always, “These two actresses, (here are their headshots!) and 48 other less well-known rich people, were charged blah blah blah…”

The Press’s knee-jerk use of the celebrities in the lede allowed the Republicans to position this as a “liberal” scandal. Now, I don’t know who else is involved but I’d bet that Republicans predominate, for no other reason but the culprits had to have a lot of money on hand. Worst case, it’s a split, making it an American problem and not a Republican/Democrat problem.

The NY Times referred to this as Snowplow Parenting. That’s a step up from Helicopter Parents, who merely hover. The Snowplow Parents work to clear all obstacles from their offspring’s paths. It’s nice in theory but leaves the children totally unprepared to deal with life’s inevitable obstacles. Or even normal adult tasks.

I always thought a parent’s primary objective should be to prepare their kids to be independent. Knocking down every obstacle and refusing to let your kid try something and fail is a huge disservice. If one can’t handle disappointment, (and life will be loaded with it), it will be a miserable existence indeed.

OK, I guess it would be quite nice if your parents bought your way onto teams and got you into colleges for which you weren’t qualified, but eventually, the snowplowing is going to come to an end, and then what?

Personally, I’m glad I worked for whatever I got. My rewards corresponded with my efforts. My parents always provided a safety net, but I was out there on my own. I did my own homework and my own projects. If they were crappy, I got a bad grade. It was on me.

Side note: I stopped asking the folks for homework help very early in life, after the Math Debacle. I went to grade school in the 60s when the “New Math” revolution was in full swing. My parents could help me with math, but their way had nothing to do with the way I was being taught. So even when I got the right answers, my parents’ methods didn’t lend themselves to the next tasks, when we moved on to other functions.

After that, I had my mom review writing projects and suggest edits, (usually for grammar and clarity.) That was it.

I picked my own college, did my college application by myself, and got myself enrolled. More importantly, I paid my own way through school via part-time jobs.

My folks supported me… I guess you could call it a collaboration. I purposely picked a state college to which I could make a daily commute, so to avoid dorm costs. They helped me with buying books, which was a complete racket. And during my last semester, when I ran out of money, they kicked in the last $500 of my tuition.
They would have paid for me to live on campus but it was important to me to do this on my own. That’s how they raised me. I made it my business to get in and out in four years.

The sad thing, in today’s world, is that this is practically impossible anymore. Not only have tuition costs skyrocketed, there are so few jobs left for teens and young adults to do. The entire retail sector that once was, is now GONE. The stores that are still open don’t have nearly the same staffing level that they did in the late 70s.

I worked at a grocery store, a gas station, and a record store. (There was also one summer in a glass factory, which I call My Summer in Hell.) But that was enough to pay my tuition and gas/beer money.

Now, the grocery store would have self-service cash registers, and the stations with live cashiers have them bag the groceries too. So there would be no bag boys and half the number of cashiers.

The gas station? Well, that was a pretty cheap operation right then. I worked by myself all day and that hasn’t really changed. But they were so cheap, they didn’t even have a cash register… I had to make change out of a cigar box. They were so cheap, they advertised their gas prices in liters. Don’t think THAT didn’t get me yelled at all the time when customers found out gas wasn’t really .49 per gallon. Like it was the gas jockey’s idea…

And record stores? They’re just gone, disappeared from the landscape. And the malls you usually found them in, are either gone too or a shell of their former selves. So what’s left? Food, I guess. Big box stores. Everyplace else is on a skeleton crew. Stores make sure they keep their payroll down and no one gets over 30 hours, lest they become eligible for benefits.

So I feel for kids and parents today, who are caught in this mess. It’s a shame that kids who work hard and do their best are getting squeezed out of the competitive colleges by kids whose parents stacked the deck for them.
But at least they’ll know what it’s like to survive not getting your first choice in life.

Chances are, they’ll handle it better than those who have received everything they’ve ever wanted, but yet spend their nights rage-tweeting about not getting enough credit and respect.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Debunkery - The Glass Houses Edition

So much bullshit, so little time to clean it up. Facebook has been rife with false and misleading memes so it’s time for a little debunkery!

This was a Facebook status that’s been shared an alarming number of times.

I’ll start with picking the nit that Obama didn’t give Iran a dime… he had their assets unfroze to let them recover money that was theirs to begin with.

But the main fallacy here is the false analogy of Obama “bypassing” Congress to “give” Iran money while not being sued, vs Trump being sued by trying to “emergency” his way into obtaining funds for his vanity wall.

On one hand, the Obama administration negotiated a treaty with Iran to (I repeat) unfreeze their assets in return for a stop to all nuclear pursuits. According to independent monitors, Iran was keeping to the deal, even after Trump nixed the US’s participation in the treaty. Foreign policy and treaties are the prerogatives of the Executive Branch, so Obama did nothing unusual in that regard.

On the other hand, Trump is claiming an emergency when there clearly is not, in an end-around attempt to circumvent the powers the Constitution grants Congress; to allocate money for the government. He is attempting to spend money “for security,” although there are far more efficient and productive ways to use that same money, which the Democratic-led House is all for.

So Trump is usurping the Constitution so he can make good on a campaign promise and the country gets $5-billion white elephant with Trump’s name on it. Sounds like a guarantee that he’d be sued over that. In fact, he was probably counting on it… He didn’t name those two partisan judges to the Supreme Court for nothing. I’m sure he’s counting on all Trump-related SCOTUS decisions going his way for the foreseeable future.

Another Facebook status, another false dichotomy. This isn’t an either/or situation so there is no choice necessary. I could end there, but there is still much to debunk.

Illegals being housed and fedreceiving medical” Sounds like the lap of luxury, but in reality, they are being “housed and fed” the same way prisoners in jail are. It’s not exactly Club Med; it’s the bare essentials to keep people alive. And this is AFTER ripping their kids away from them under false pretenses.

Seniors have to choose between prescriptions and food…”
And who is it forcing this choice? The same people who are trying to cut and/or privatize Social Security, so they don’t have to pay back the trillions borrowed from it in the 80s. And trying to keep the minimum wage from rising to a living wage. You think seniors working part-time jobs are making $70k with stock plans? Minimum wage isn’t just for teenagers and that’s been the reality for decades.

Do the Republicans have any proposals to help seniors? Nope… snake-eyes there.

Basically, this comes down to carping about the perception that brown people getting something for nothing.

Obamacare: Months of hearings, testimony, and negotiations, multiple proposals, while Republicans moved the goalposts every time a deal was near. (And remember, this was entirely a Republican idea first proposed in the 90s and executed at the state level by Republican governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Eventually, the 60 Democrats, many of which had just been voted into office for this very purpose, ended the filibuster threat so the bill could pass and go to the president for signature.

Yes, Republicans were given a choice and they chose to obstruct every idea (even their own) that was put forth by Democrats. They don’t get to whine about it later.

Trump’s Vanity Wall: A president flouting the Constitutional powers given Congress, to redirect money marked for other services, to the least effective means of border security, by calling it an emergency even though there is nothing close to one going on.

Yep, exactly alike. Enjoy celebrating a wall that never gets built.

1)      Not an agenda item going in, per Pelosi herself. She is on record as wanting to wait to see where the investigations go before calling for impeachment. No wonder Republicans don’t understand it. They’re used to starting with the conclusion they want and working backward to find reasons for it.
2)      On the super-rich. They always leave that part out. Democrats’ entire goal is to provide meaningful tax relief to those who got screwed with the Trump tax bill.
3)      From what, their kids? It’s a matter of priority, and it’s not a sane one to spend law-enforcement resources rounding up people who are not a threat to anyone or anything. Until Trump changed their orders, ICE was supposed to pick up criminals … dangerous, crime-committing people, not those who overstayed their visas so they can continue to do menial labor our own people won’t do.
4)      If it’s about a gun, conservatives call it gun control, because it sounds scary and Big Brother-ish. The actual agenda is to try to put a dent into the number of people slaughtered by guns every year, by trying to keep terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally unstable from buying killing machines. By banning them? No, by doing thorough background checks. What bastards!
5)      If America is so “strong” right now, why do you need all the guns? This is just a Trumpian tic where everything is divided between weak and strong. “Me strong. Them weak. MAGA!

Lastly, the possessive of Democrat is Democratic. This is America, speak English, will you please?

 Seriously? Were you alive between 2009 and 2016? We’ll give Trump the same amount of respect that you teabaggers, nut-jobs, moralists and rich-apologists gave Obama.

It’s like a mass wave of amnesia washed over Republicans, wherein they completely forgot about the abuse heaped on the last president and his family. You don’t like it rough now? You started it, Trump, in particular, with his racist birtherism nonsense.
Michelle got raked by the Right for occasionally going sleeveless and daring to ask children to eat their vegetables. “Ape in high heels,” that was one of the quotes, wasn’t it?

I haven’t heard a peep from a single conservative, ever, in judgment of Melania’s past. (Not that I think anyone should… I’m just highlighting the comparison.)

They should just put it in the Republican National Platform: “It’s only wrong when a Democrat does it.”

If socialism was the problem, then I guess Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada will become dictatorial hellholes any day now. A... n... y... day now.

OR, maybe it was a matter of corrupt people coming to power.

Classic logical fallacy… because B followed A, then A must have caused B.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Incubators

In another campaign of mass distraction, it looks like in addition to the fear of gays and brown foreigners, the Republicans are going to fall back on another conservative greatest hit, abortion. They’ve been warming up the disinformation machine already.

As a result of states like New York and Virginia firming up reproductive rights, the GOP has taken to twisting reality in describing the horrors of late-term abortions.

While they get their rabid base all stirred up with graphic verbal depictions of what they think happens during such a procedure, they completely ignore the bigger picture. And reality.

Women don’t wait until late in their pregnancy to have an abortion because they just haven’t gotten around to it. These things become necessary when there is a grave threat to the mother or they know the fetus has a life expectancy you can time with a stop-watch. It’s a horrible tragedy that no one should have to face, let along be browbeaten about it from people who have no business butting in.

So, the prospect of the Smaller Government Brigade presuming to step in and demand access to the patient/doctor conversation is the height of hypocrisy.

The people making these ghastly speeches know this too; they just don’t care. It’s much more important to them to get people riled up for an election year than acknowledge an inconvenient truth. Last time it was selling baby parts. Now it’s murdering infants for shits and giggles.

I’m amazed that I still have to write about this issue. (The first time was here.) (And more recently, here.) For something that’s been settled law since the 70s, the Republicans have found a myriad of ways to chip away at Roe v Wade, so that even if it can’t be overturned, it can be rendered functionally impotent.

They create building requirements that apply to no other healthcare business. They create requirements for the doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospitals (which they then harass into refusing all such accommodations.) They pass laws requiring doctors to read or hand out factually incorrect statements to patients seeking to end their pregnancies, as well as invasive, medically unnecessary tests as a prerequisite. Once they thin out the number of offices that will perform abortions, they legislate waiting periods which often require multiple trips over long distances. They make sure that crowds of shouting, sign-waving busybodies can physically harass and intimidate anyone who enters a clinic, regardless of their intent once inside.

All of these barriers are created to deter women from having abortions. None of them protect women’s health in any way, as proclaimed by the barrier builders.

I know that as a man, my voice comes with an asterisk. However close I’ve been to this issue, every woman on earth is closer. If I were a woman, I would lose my mind on this issue.

How dare some sanctimonious schmuck try to tell ME what’s best for me and my family? How dare some moralistic prig insert themselves into MY family tragedy? How dare anyone other than me and my doctor think they have the right to utter a single syllable to me, let alone set up more hoops for me to jump through because my personal decisions run contrary to theirs? And if heaven forbid, my doctor tells me that if I should carry this baby to term, I am likely to die, I’m supposed to consider some legislator’s moral stance? FUCK. YOU!

I would have a lot to say to these people and it wouldn’t be very ladylike. Good thing for my sanity that I’m not female and I am well past my childbearing years.

Nobody is “for” abortions, as Republicans loathe to acknowledge. Pro-Choice people ARE opposed to letting strangers substitute their morality for ours when we have a personal crisis on our hands. They want us to dance to their tune and then they go waltzing off while we deal with the consequences alone.

Their “Right to Life” boils down to their demanding their right to interfere in your life. Moralize, judge, condemn, then offer no help whatsoever.
Here’s how you tell that the conservative “Pro-Life” agenda is all about controlling women rather than the admirable goal of reducing the number of abortions.

If they really wanted to lower the instance of abortions, they’d be out in full force to provide birth control, the Number One factor in minimizing unwanted pregnancies. But they don’t really care about that.
Remember what happened when the Democrats passed the ACA, which included free birth control? Republicans went ape-shit, generating lawsuit after lawsuit meaning to overturn that particular benefit.

Were they really incapable of understanding that a couple dollars spend on birth control saves hundreds or thousand later in other costs, like SNAP, WIC, medical costs, foster care reimbursement? Of course not. But fiscal responsibility wasn’t their goal.

No, the real goal is to keep a foot on the necks of all women to prevent them from usurping the place of the white male. Or gaining any real political power. According to at least one Republican lawmaker, women are merely “hosts.” Incubators, if you will, for man’s offspring. Hell, women are lucky Republicans even allow them to vote.

And by listening to the speechifying coming from the Right to Lifers, it’s clear they intend to lie, distort, exaggerate and fear-monger to trick people into exchanging their own right to self-determination for the right to be told by strangers how and when to bring children into the world.

But let’s not protest too loudly though or we might encroach on their freedom of religion and we wouldn’t want to do THAT... Someone might take offense.

Late Note: I just noticed that this week, Catholics of the world will welcome another Ash Wednesday. As a boy, I never minded getting ashes on Ash Wednesday. But I would have minded it a lot less if the priest would have put out his cigar first.

Now, as a Recovering Catholic, please allow me to help decipher the various smudges you may see on the foreheads of practicing Catholics.



Monday, February 25, 2019

Rude Mood

Is it me, or this town, or is it getting irretrievably ruder across the country?

Last week I took my sweetie out to see one of her favorite artists, John Mellencamp, play the Lyric Theater in Baltimore. It was her birthday present and we’ve been looking forward to this night out since last October.

The Lyric is a cozy little venue, holding just over 2500 people. I used to like these small venues because they made for such a personal show. But not anymore.

Why can’t people just shut the hell up?

Right off the bat, Mellencamp told us there would be some rockin’ parts of the show and some quiet parts, and if anyone felt like yelling and screaming during the quiet parts, they should go out in the hallway.

Cut to a quiet part, where he was trying to tell a story to introduce a song, and people start yelling out songs they want to hear. He says, “Didn’t I tell you to go out in the fuckin’ hallway?

Big laugh line. He obviously set that up on purpose. So then what happened?

He tried to backtrack and continue with his story and again, he had to stop because of some people talking up front. That’s the thing with these small venues… if you’re yapping or yelling in an arena or stadium, the artist barely knows it. But here, they hear everything.

He told them again to knock it off. He said, “I’ve played over 70 shows on this tour and this is the first time this has happened to me.”

Again, he had to pick up the thread of his story, and eventually, it led right into a song. That’s the thing about performances like this… there’s a rhythm and timing to it. When it gets messed up, it ruins the intended effect.

Not that anyone in Baltimore cared… They were too busy yelling out for Pink Houses.

We were sitting in the upper tier, first row on the side, so we basically had to spend the night looking to our right to see the stage.

Unfortunately for Sweetpea, she was sitting next to a drunken spider monkey. The guy was leaning forward, leaning backward, standing up, sitting down, and thrashing about on his “air drums.”

No one else in the section was standing or dancing and given that he was in the front row, it’s not like he couldn’t see. It’s like I say in the Book of Bluz 3:24:Whether it's at a ballgame, a concert, or whatnot, if you're the only one standing up, you're an asshole.  A complete, self-centered, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, flaming asshole.  Everyone else who bought a ticket didn't pay to see your back all night.”
This was our view all night. Thanks, Asshole.

At least he took a couple of long trips to get more beer. We were hoping he’d get lost on the way back.
  
***

My working theory is that Baltimore is filled with the rudest, most self-involved people in the country. It’s not just of this show that makes me think so, but two others of which I have first or second-hand knowledge.

Exhibit B
In 2014, I went to see comic folk singer, Todd Snider, play the Baltimore Soundstage, another small venue, like dinner theater without the dinner. I’d been looking forward to seeing this guy for years.

I wrote a more in-depth post about my experience, but in a nutshell, he had the same problem that Mellencamp had. But Snider was just a one-man act, with no band to help barrel through the noise.

A table up front kept calling out songs for him to play. He handled it deftly at first… “I appreciate the energy but I got this…”

Then he tried reasoning. “I can sit here and talk to you, but then I wouldn’t be able to play some of the songs you all came to hear me play.

Shortly after that, ushers came down to remove some people from the front of the stage. Snider took a short break at that point, saying, “I can’t be a part of this…”

Even after that, people still didn’t get the message.

I had it on good authority (from a waitress) that he was going to play until 11:30 PM.  But around 10:25, he said, “This just isn’t working out very well, so I’ll just leave you with a couple more.” Which he did, and then left, with about an hour of music left unplayed and stories left untold.

I’d seen setlists from previous dates on the tour posted on Facebook. He only played about two-thirds of the songs on this night.

Now, should he have manned up and not been such a sensitive artiste? Hell yes. But how about if the crowd takes a freakin’ hint, shuts their yapping pie holes and just enjoys the show?

Exhibit C
My brother and his wife went to see James Taylor a couple years ago, in another small theater in town. Every time Taylor spoke to the crowd to tell stories or introduce a song, people in the crowd yelled out for what they wanted to hear.

My brother said he could see Taylor getting annoyed. Soon, he stopped trying to talk at all and just played the rest of his set, one after another, without further comment.

So, is it just Baltimore, is this going on at other venues across the country? Maybe it’s a local thing, or maybe it’s just a sign of a new era.

I’ve been to over a hundred concerts in my life, many at smaller venues. But until the Snider show, I’d never seen a crowd acting so rude. Usually, when a performer told a story, the place went silent, not wanting to miss a word. Now, no one seems to care about any words but their own.

Have you seen this behavior at small venues? Something to the point of distracting/upsetting/ interrupting the performer? People talking over the people they just paid $150 to listen to?

Is this a national thing, or just a sad symptom of “Charm City?”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Emergency

Our feckless “leader” has gone and done it; he’s decided to get his wall money by declaring the border situation an “emergency” and then raiding funds meant for other uses.

In no rational way is this a legitimate emergency, not unless you’re one of those ‘Murcans burrowed deep into fallout shelters, scared to death of the caravans of brown people, who in seeking a better life, want jobs picking crops, landscaping and cleaning hotel rooms. You know… the scary people.

This is a “wink and a nod” emergency. It’s just a way for the Dotard in Chief to circumvent Congress and his vanity wall.
“It’s an emerrrgency, ay? Emerrrrrrgency, ay ay? Wink wink, nudge nudge, say n’more!”

Mr. Cheeky has already admitted it out loud, on camera, saying, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it (build the wall) much faster.”

Did you see from where he wants to pull the money? Among other things, he’s targeting funds earmarked to upgrade soldiers’ housing. Apparently, there are significant numbers of servicemen and their families living in moldy, rat-infested houses. Sure, everybody gets all weepy and patriotic about military men and women, but let’s divert the money meant to keep them from living in squalor.

He’s also moving funds from border patrol units who manage ports of entry… you know, the places where undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs most frequently cross the border. He’s taking money from units that keep us safe to build a wall which is far less effective in keeping us safe… for safety’s sake.

So far, Republicans in Congress seem to begrudgingly go along with it, but I’m not surprised. I’d be flabbergasted if these Republicans actually put the constitution and the good of the country ahead of their fears of not getting reelected.

I’m surprised that more of them aren’t bringing up their nightmare scenario of a Democrat getting elected president and then using the same executive power to address some actual emergencies.

If I were running for president, it would be part of my campaign promises… “If this emergency end-around gains court approval, on Day One I will declare national emergencies on climate change, gun-related deaths, health care, and opiate overdoses.

Guaranteed that Mitch McConnell develops a massive case of selective amnesia and decries the unprecedented massive power grab. Guaranteed that he will NOT say: “Yeah, I should have seen that coming.

On the surface, it looks like conservative hate-monger Ann Coulter has seen the light. She recently said, “The only national emergency is that the president is an idiot.”

She’s right, of course, but for all the wrong reasons. She thinks he should have kept the shutdown going, leaving millions without paychecks, rather than caving and using the “emergency” maneuver. It’s not like she suddenly developed a conscience or sense of empathy. Or human decency.

Trump is sure his power grab will ultimately be found constitutional by the Supreme Court. After all, he packed it himself!

I think the wild card here is John Roberts. He’s the only conservative who appears to give a shit about keeping the court from becoming a partisan joke. If the lower courts all line up behind calling foul, I don’t think he’ll reverse them.

Best case scenario… the whole thing takes up the next two years so we can elect a new president and he or she can shitcan the whole operation.

That’s going to be a full-time job for the next Democratic president: undoing all the atrocities performed by the current swampers.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Homeless Thoughts

This is the stuff I was going to write about last week before I decided to touch the third rail and suggest we shouldn’t judge people by what they may or may not have done 35 years ago. (And thank you to Infidel 753 for posting a link to it, even though we don’t see eye to eye on this issue.)

So forgive me if this is a wee bit past its freshness date.

Pitch a Mitch
In shooting down the idea of a federal holiday of Election Day, Mitch McConnell basically admitted that his party’s platform has insufficient support nation-wide to win elections. He called the proposition “a power-grab by Democrats.”
Well, that’s the Republican election strategy right there, isn’t it? Do whatever possible to prevent working people from voting. They know that if people ever voted for their own financial self-interest, nary another Republican would ever be elected. Hence the constant focus on wedge issues like immigration, gay marriage, and abortion.

This isn’t to say that I agree about making Election Day a national holiday. I don’t think it will have the effect intended. I mean, look at other national holidays, like MLK day or Columbus Day. How many people really get the day off? No one in the service industries, that’s for sure. Hell, they can barely get Thanksgiving off.

Best I can see, state and federal workers would be off, as well as some in the banking industry. And in many office environments, there are workplace rules in effect which allows people to take time to vote.

We also know now that Mitch received $3.5 million in campaign contributions from a Russian oligarch, who is a business associate of two other Russian oligarchs, who have ties to Putin. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham received hefty donations as well.

So is there any wonder why those sanctions against Russian oligarchs were allowed to be rescinded last month? Not only is Individual One under the sway of the Russians, so are his right-hand men.

This story smells worse with every passing day. Like two-week-old borscht.

And speaking of foul smells, did you see what Mitch tweeted last week?

As I’ve said time and time again: Mindless obstruction is unacceptable. The only way this divided Congress will be able to choose greatness and deliver significant legislation is by focusing on, as President Trump put it, “cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” 2/6/19

Are you fucking kidding me? This is the guy who practically invented mindless obstruction. Anything President Obama wanted was rejected, just because Obama wanted it. They obstructed every Democratic bill offered, from foreign policy to infrastructure repair. He held up a Supreme Court nomination just because it was Obama’s, AND was willing to hold up any Clinton nominee as well!

Mitch, do NOT lecture us on obstruction. You, my man, are the poster-boy for obstruction, like a triple-decker cork and cheese sandwich.

Fox on the Run
A couple weeks back, a reporter for Fox “News” tweeted out a return-fire slam on their deity, President Trump, after he criticized a couple of their reporters for not understanding his handling of The Wall.

By going on Twitter and insulting two of our journalists, @realDonaldTrump is putting a target on their backs. In turn, his followers will then attack @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner in support on Twitter. Bullying journalists is not Presidential. Period.”  Julie Banderas 1/28/19

That’s all well and good, but where the hell has she been for the last two years, as reporters from CNN, NBC, CBS and the rest have been getting lambasted from the presidential pulpit?

I guess the fun and games are over once der Trumper turns his wrath on you, huh? Up until then, it’s just evening the score against the “liberal media.”

Journalists should stick together in the face of presidential devaluation of the fourth estate. It’s just too bad Fox waited 2 years to start and acted only after their own self-interest was threatened.

Threatened Self-Interest Part 2
Speaking of threats to the status quo, you can probably expect the full-on Fox media assault on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to last until the next election. Seems she’s even passed Elizabeth Warren as Republican Enemy Number One. Why? Besides the fact that she’s a Latina and a woman? Because her economic populism scares them.

She has the charisma and intelligence to ask the questions about why so few have so much. And she asks why we don’t assess higher taxes to the rich. I mean, that’s where the money is, isn’t it?

That scares the shit out of the rich, who want to keep their tax rates right where they are… either low or non-existent (after all the loopholes and tax shelters are used.) The only way to head off this class warfare revolution is to have their lapdogs at Fox “News” and talk radio to throw as much shade on AOC as possible, questioning her intelligence, her background, and going through every statement with a fine-tooth comb to look for inconsistencies.

The knives are out for her, big time, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Reefer Madness
Here in Baltimore, state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby announced last week that she would no longer pursue charges for marijuana possession, regardless of the amount one is found holding. The reasoning, “We need to get serious about prioritizing what actually makes us safe and no one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money.”

I completely agree. Now if only they could get the Baltimore police to stop arresting people for pot possession. That’s right, the cops say they’re going to continue to enforce the laws as written. I’m sure they want to be able to use pot possession as leverage or as an excuse to look for more incriminating evidence.

But that’s how it goes in Baltimore…one step forward, then two steps sideways.

Rather Interesting
Back during the Great Shutdown of 2019 (Part 1), I saw a post by Dan Rather that made tremendous sense. I don’t know if it was on Twitter or Facebook… I searched both but can’t find the original post.

The gist of it was him wondering why they can’t address the border wall issue the way these issues used to be handled. Draft a bill, send it to Congress, hold hearings, bring in witnesses, look at the evidence, lobby for votes and then hold the vote. It either passes or it doesn’t.

Demanding money for a wall and holding the government hostage is not the way to get grand things done.

Staff of Life
Have you read the latest book from inside the White House? Cliff Sims’s book “Team of Vipers” came out a while back with lots of sneak peeks from advance copies. I haven’t read this one yet, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t paint any different of a picture than the last two books, “Fire and Fury,” and “Fear.”

The reaction I saw from the White House was low key… just painting the author as a nobody… some low-level staffer.

From the Washington Post excerpts, this “low-level staffer” was writing copy for Sean Spicer, helping the president with his hair products, and generally spending a lot of personal time with Trump.

Here’s the thing: I trust the word of a low-level staffer more than some of the other heavy hitters in the administration. These are the guys that get overlooked in a crowded room. They’re ignored by the upper-level staff, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see what’s going on. I’d trust the gofers to have a better handle on the general atmosphere than the big shots because they’ve got less skin in the game… or at least less ego on the line. John Q Public doesn’t know who they are.

I mean, had you ever heard of Cliff Sims before he wrote the book?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Touching the Third Rail

I had a bunch of other stuff I was going to write about but the lingering story about Virginia governor Ralph Northam has me in a stew.

First of all, the story is all over the map. Is it him? Is it not? Is it not, but he appeared in blackface at some other point?

His med school roommate doesn’t think it’s him at all, per USA Today.

The Governor’s ever-changing story/apology is not filling anyone with confidence or forgiveness.

Now, I agree that appearing in a picture like that is pretty loathsome. It’s not something I would have done in 1984 (when I was one year out of college). (I did plenty of other offensive stuff.)

It bothers me that we're trying to end someone’s career for doing something culturally insensitive thirty-five years ago, that wasn’t widely perceived as culturally insensitive at the time. Do you know how to tell it was a culturally insensitive time? Because they put a photo like that in the goddamn high school yearbook!

You can’t judge 35-year-old actions by the standards that apply today. That’s not a fair beef. If that was a picture from last year, or three years ago, or ten years ago, I’d also join the chorus calling for his resignation.

Was the action stupid? Absolutely. White-privileged? Absolutely.

But Jesus Christ, we all did stupid shit in the 80s. I remember my college self and my friends as desperately trying to break conventions and be as irreverent as we could. Our knowledge of the world was a mile wide and an inch deep. We just wanted to stick it any public convention that was standing in the way of our having fun.

Shortly after 1984, Sam Kinison and Andrew “Dice” Clay set the landscape on fire with their outrageous and offensive stand-up comedy shows and albums. It’s just the way things were back then.

My friends and I rarely thought about race. In fact, out in the sticks where I grew up, we were pretty isolated from any other cultures, aside from a smattering of Mexicans. We told jokes that would be offensive to pretty much every ethnic category, but we didn’t mean anything by it. They were just jokes.

To us.

In our early 20s, we were not yet fully developed people. I would hate to be judged today by the things I did when I was a boy.

For instance, I used to have a rebel flag. My dad brought it home for me from the Atlanta airport. I had it tacked up in our barn where we partied, and then on my apartment wall when I moved out. To me, all it meant was Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Charlie Daniels Band, and southern rock. That was it.

I know it’s in the background of some old pictures laying around in dusty desk drawers and I’m disturbed to think that if one of those went public, it would probably disqualify me from holding for public office today. All because I loved “Gimme Three Steps,” and the sound of a southern drawl.

Thirty-five years is a lot of time to grow up. You learn more about the world and about other people who aren’t like you. You mature. You empathize. And the culture changes to become more inclusive.

When judging Governor Northam’s situation, I think the important thing to know is who the guy is now and what he is trying to accomplish. We have outright racists in government, saying offensive things and pushing racist policies today. Those are far more important targets for our cultural wrath.

Republicans never kick their own people out over stuff like this. They just demand that we do, then laugh as we follow through while they just consolidate their power.

If we continue down this path, who are we going to get to run for office? The talent pool of good candidates for top (or lower) government offices is thin enough as it is, without requiring that they have to have been perfect throughout their entire lives. And not just perfect at the time; perfect in retrospect.

And what about 30 years from now? What kind of stupid shit are we doing now that’s going to be offensive then? (Besides wearing MAGA hats.) Maybe in 30 years, we’ll have decided that staring at your phone while in the presence of others is a high insult.

If that happens, the robots will have to govern themselves.

In this country, we prize the ability to learn and grow. Governor Northam should apologize and take ownership of whatever it was he did in 1984, photographed or not. And then we should judge him by his actions as governor, not for failing to live up to standards that didn’t exist yet.
DVD Director’s Commentary: I have no actual plans to run for office. I’m just sayin… the flag thing would be a problem if I did. It’s not like I’m bulletproof like Mitch McConnell.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Venting Steam

After 35 days of building pressure, Individual 1 finally agreed to turn down the heat and let some steam escape by reopening the government without any wall money.

Collectively, America took a breath.

Unfortunately, the pot has gone right back on the stove because the resolution only bought three weeks’ time before there’s another impasse. Republicans and Democrats can sit down and solve a simple problem like stemming illegal immigration in three weeks, right?

Right?

Yeah, probably not. These guys can’t agree on lunch without a continuing resolution.

But for the time being, at least we can get some people paid, (assuming it doesn’t take three weeks to get Payroll functioning again). I bet this won’t help those who are suffering from the downstream effect… you know, retailers and contractors who rely on federal employees to spend money with them.

I know if I were a federal employee, I would have all projects on hold until there was certainty on the “getting paid” front. Nobody’s talking about this crowd though. I don’t see any programs designed to make these people whole again.

Poor Donald ran afoul of his puppet-masters, though, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. They were not amused by their guy caving in. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone gives a fig about what those two ghouls have to say. Obama never gave Rachael Maddow veto power over his decisions.

It's easy to screech at people from the sidelines, without having to actually DO anything.  I guarantee you this though. If some major disaster were to befall the country because of the shutdown, like a plane crash due to insufficient traffic control personnel or a terrorist who got a bomb on board due to the TSA sick-out, these two clowns would be out there going, “Not my fault… I’m not the President. I don’t have a vote in Congress.”

Buck-passing motherfuckers... They stir up a mountain of shit and then point fingers at everyone else. Of course, they’ll be the first to take a bow should anything (they consider) good happen. They’re just like Trump, now that you think about it.

The fact that Trump didn’t get the one thing for which he was holding out makes you wonder what it finally took. I mean, he obviously didn’t care about forcing 800,000 people to go without their paychecks.
“Leadership” my ass.

The horror stories abounded, which makes one wonder, how good can this economy possibly be if missing one paycheck causes so much strife? Even people with “good jobs,” like those who work for the federal government, are barely making ends meet, let alone saving for the future and/or retirement.

But it seems that temporarily shutting down New York’s Laguardia Airport plus the one in Newark got his attention. That was his turf and now his friends were being inconvenienced.

I say that if they try another shutdown, the first thing we do is have the air traffic controllers at Dulles and Reagan International start calling out. Let Congress stew in their own juices for a while.

Or maybe the cynics are right and Trump opened the government to get the Roger Stone indictments off the front page. He does seem to be a master of misdirection, doesn’t he? That’s the thing with this guy. There are so many outrages, no single event can fully play out before the next one is unleashed. And the next and the next. Who knows how many atrocities are taking place without anyone noticing?

Speaking of atrocities, or at least giant bumble-fucks, I have one observation about the Covington Catholic Boys. That “sneer” everyone was talking about? There’s a reason that look sets people on edge.

That’s the look of a bully when he knows there are lots of his friends around and only one target. He knew he was 100% safe because he was surrounded by his boys. He could be as obnoxious as he wanted to, so he chose to crowd the old guy and try to make him uncomfortable. Same with the rest of the punks in the crew.

I know there were layers of this story that spooled out over time, but none of them change my opinion that these were entitled little pricks bent on mocking a lone Native American man. Hell, they were already on film mocking female passersby.

Please spare me the apologies that the poor children were all unnerved by the Black Israelites, who taunted them. I guarantee they’ve taunted others in even more graphic terms. The only thing that shook them up was being called out on a national stage for their Asshole-ish behavior.

And what did the parents do? Made excuses for them, of course, making damned sure that they learned not a single lesson from their sudden notoriety.

They can sleep in comfort knowing that even entitled obnoxious bastards can grow up to be anything.

Like a Supreme Court justice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Odd Bits - The Cherry-Picked Edition

I’m Offended That You Think I Offended You by Banning you from School
Word came out last week that VP Mike Pence’s wife is working for a Christian school who denies entry to LGBT students and employment to LGBT job candidates, which produced the expected uproar.

The funny part was how upset the VEEP got, claiming the press was attacking Christian education.

He’s giving the students a tremendous “Christian education” right now, by showing them how to claim offense whenever they are called out for their discriminatory beliefs. Always the claim of “religious freedom” whenever the “holy” people want to put the screws to the minority of choice. They did it with African-Americans in the 50s and 60s and they’re doing it now with gays.

What I want to know is when this school is going to ban shrimp eaters, money borrowers, horoscope readers, football players and those who wear multi-fabric clothes. All those (and more ridiculous stuff) are banned under Leviticus, the same source they go to banish or deny service to gays.
Funny how it’s only the gay stuff that gets pulled out to demonstrate one’s deeply held religious beliefs?

Or maybe they just cherry pick the parts of the Bible that back up their own prejudices, to take seriously.

If your deeply held faith entails discriminating against anyone on the basis of qualities or traits with which they were born, your religion is neither righteous nor honorable and no one should cut you any slack for it.
Buzzfeed Buzz
What looked like a cut and dried slam dunk on Trump last week has started to unravel this week.

Buzzfeed reported, to much uproar, that Trump directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie about his plans to build a large hotel in Moscow.

Then a Mueller spokesman released a statement saying that the report was not correct. (It did not specify what was incorrect.)

That naturally led to Trump claiming exoneration for the eleven-thousandth time. And on the surface, it looks like he’s right.

BUT.

There are other possibilities here. Maybe Mueller and his team aren’t ready to make this case right now or have Congressional inquiries sidetrack the investigation.

Maybe it’s a minor point of contention among larger, more incriminating points. Like it’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle that he doesn’t want to be singled out right now.

Or maybe a Republican operative intentionally fed Buzzfeed false information to prevent anyone else from looking at that issue.

The one thing I take away is to pay no attention to Trump’s claims about Michael Cohen lying about it. If true, the report notes that there were emails and texts that the investigation has, which makes anything Cohen has to say irrelevant. Authenticated documents don’t lie. That makes a disgruntled, lying, ex-attorney a non-factor.

Same thing goes with new Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani (or anyone else) saying he hasn’t seen any emails or texts. Doesn’t matter. Mueller is under no obligation to turn over any incriminating documents to a suspect’s attorney at this time. Just because Rudy hasn’t seen them doesn’t mean Mueller doesn’t have them.

And that goes for all the other commenters and writers in the press and otherwise who talk about, “There is no proof” that Trump did whatever.

There’s no proof that they know of. The Mueller investigation has been very good about keeping a lid on what they have and showing us only what they want us to see. (Like in filing papers and whatnot.) We don’t know jack shit right now.

Mueller’s investigation can have veritable bombs for evidence and no one outside his team knows otherwise. Once he releases his report, then, Attorney General Barr permitting, we’ll know the truth.

And I’m guessing that even if Barr suppresses the most incriminating parts of the Mueller Report, someone in or around Congress will leak it. A secret like that will never stay secret.

Winging It
Trump might have had a leg to stand on when he kiboshed Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Europe and Afghanistan on military aircraft, but it didn’t last long. Sure, it was childish tit for tat after she suggested postponing his State of the Union address. She used security as a reason to postpone, he did the same regarding her trip.

But then he took it to a new level when his Administration leaked the travel plans they made to fly commercial. Besides vindictive, that’s just plain reckless. It’s a boy-king, jeopardizing the lives of everyone on that plane just because they displeased him, and because he can.

And then, of course, he has his wife use a military jet to go to Mir-a-Lago on vacation. That’s the rubbing of salt into the wound.

Personally, if the SOTU is postponed for real, I’d like to thank Speaker Pelosi for sparing me from hearing (or reading about) how this blowhard is going to blame everyone else for the mess he made. The fewer speeches he makes, the better.

I, for one, am glad he only spent two minutes at the MLK shrine. Did you really think he’d be capable of making a statement that was sensitive to the time and place? Donald Trump doesn’t pay tribute to anyone other than himself. If he were to speak more expansively, he would have ended up claiming his marches got better ratings.

If only he could spend MORE time not speaking. This country would be better for it.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Continental Drift

Republicans have found themselves a new boogieman this winter, in the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC” for short. I’m not sure if it’s because of her politics or that her name is so long (and Latin). They should consider themselves lucky because it could be worse. Both Ocasio and Cortez are relatively short. What if her last name was something like Rodriguez-Dominguez de Jesus?

Sorry, I don’t mean to lead with a tangent…

Ever since she won her House of Representative’s race, the knives have been out for her more than anyone else, even the Muslim woman who called Trump a motherfucker. She won by campaigning on income inequality and representing the needs of the middle and lower classes. For real, not just lip service, and that’s why conservatives are scared.
The last thing they want is for the country to start coalescing around a charismatic populist, then turning out in numbers to vote for their own financial interest. That would spell the end of Republican control of anything.

So naturally, anything she does becomes fodder for attack, from clips of her in high school dancing to what clothes she wears, to where she used to live.

Now, I don’t know that all of her ideas should be adopted right away. She campaigned as a Socialist and has a lot of grand ideas for how to reshape the country.

The country will not move easily or without a fight from those vested in the status quo. But hard-left politicians like AOC (and Bernie Sanders in the Senate) are necessary if we are to move to the left at all. (And by “moving to the left,” I mean focusing the government’s interest finding ways to benefit the many rather than the richest few.)

Like a seasoned negotiator, one doesn’t “open” with their final demand. There will always be push-back, and in this case, by those with the most resources. If progress is to be made, we have to accept that it might be one step at a time. No one is going to be allowed to sweep in and institute single-payer health care, free college, and a ban on coal mining.

For example, we may not be able to create, a single-payer health care system this term, but we can at least start moving incrementally to a more equitable system. The monied few are not going to give up their influence without a bloody fight so they will oppose any efforts to repair the ACA. And the better the ACA works, the less distance there is to jump to single-payer.

I think she’s going to be the more effective force for change in the long run, because she is a candidate of these times. She’s young, proficient with social media, and able to relate to other Millennials and Gen-Xers. She’s been handling the Twitter trolls with class, wit, facts, and a biting edge. If she can draw out more candidates like herself, then we have the basis of a movement.
And we all know how nice it feels after a good movement!

She is the living embodiment of what Trump pretends to be; with apologies to Coke, she’s the Real Thing. He poses as a populist but every significant action he’s taken has been to benefit the rich. (Or racists or religious zealots.) He acts like he’s a “man of the people,” while having his silver spoon gilded in Trumpian gold.

Speaking of the Current Occupant, did you see how he claimed that the Democrats “could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes” if they’d “come back from their vacations and get back to work.”

Yes, HE, of all people, is complaining about other politicians’ vacations. [massive eye roll]

Anyway, do you see how easy he’s making it for the Democrats? All they have to do is give in to his demands and the shutdown is over. What a dealmaker!

As Stephen Colbert once characterized the Republican negotiating philosophy, “You scratch my back… and I get my back scratched.

He doesn’t want a deal, he wants the fight, so he can be seen as a fighter by his base (and Fox “News”). I think having the longest shutdown on record occur on his watch is a goal of his, not a problem… that way he can go on about how his shutdown (that’s totally the Democrats’ fault) is the biggest and longest of all time.

And the Democrats can’t cave; they’ve got significant leverage for the first time in 2 years. They can’t just roll over, even to get everyone paid. Or else this will become the new normal.

That’s why I think we better buckle in because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.