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.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Debunkery - The Post-Honeymoon Edition

Several ridiculous memes caught my eye while I was out getting married, so they had to wait for my return to civilization. Let’s catch up.

Oh, and yes, I did take time out of my honeymoon activities to watch both Democratic debates. Obviously, the GOP flaks did too because one theme appeared to strike a chord, either with them or the Russian bot network. 

We pay for hundreds of things that we as individuals think we shouldn’t be paying for. I, for one, find it offensive to pay for oil subsidies, tax loopholes for millionaires, abstinence-only education and war machinery that even the military doesn’t want.

But we don’t get to pick and choose what things our taxes pay for. Put me down as more willing to pay for health care for undocumented immigrants than any of the stuff I just listed. And by the way, just as an insignificant aside, they were also talking about paying for EVERYONE’S health care, one way or the other. It’s not like anyone was proposing some special fund just for one group. They are proposing health care for all.

And even “people” conservatives don’t really count as people are included in the “all.”

“Broke our laws” to get into the country. But let’s not talk about how much more difficult the Trump Administration is making it to get into the country legally. Let’s just pretend this is all just about the sanctity of The Law.

What horseshit.

And buying votes? Someone please tell Charlie Kirk that illegal aliens can’t vote and don’t vote. Hell, you’re counting on them to duck the Census because of the “Citizen Question” but then think they’re going to stick their heads out to try to register and vote?

And as always, they have to throw in the kicker about “vets dying in the streets.”

Name one Republican proposal from the last 2 years that addresses “vets dying in the streets.”

There aren’t any, because Republicans don’t give a shit about veterans except as a bludgeon to use politically in misleading memes like this. If Republicans cared about vets, they would have passed something to help them when they had control of both houses and the presidency.

Hell, they could do it right now if they wanted to. The Democrats would sign on, as long as Republicans could keep themselves from adding poison pill amendments to the bill. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the GOP formulate such a bill and then add a poison pill like funds for The Wall, so that nothing passes but it LOOKED like they tried to do something for vets, while blaming Democrats for the failure.

That’s the rationale for the Republican blaming the Democrats for the situation at the border right now, isn’t it? Dems refuse to approve “wall” money so that makes everything else the Republicans do about it the Democrats’ fault. Twisted logic at its finest.

Easiest debunking ever. In no way are the (implied) Democrats representing foreigners INSTEAD of Americans. Thus the entire supposition falls apart because the base premise is patently false.

Here’s a hint for these meme-sters. GOP congressmen represent foreigners too… they just do it poorly. A congressperson represents everyone residing in their state or district, regardless of how they got there. This just the GOP tacit method of saying that because they haven’t received a donation/kickback, they can’t be bothered to represent this particular group.

And by “foreigners,” they mean, of course, brown, Latin-American foreigners. Not Russian oligarchs. Those checks cleared. And not Eastern-European soft-core porn models. The doors are wide open for them.

I am so goddamned sick of seeing Facebook posts like this. I mean, I don’t post or forward anything in response to other people’s memes in the first place, but I certainly wouldn’t go along with this one in particular.

I call this “soft patriotism.” It takes nothing to post it and it means nothing. It’s soft… it’s easy to do… it doesn’t cost you anything. You push a button and then act like you just earned your Patriotism cred.

You want to impress me with your patriotism? Fight for the free speech of your sworn enemy. Uphold the rights of others to do that which you abhor. Support what it means to be American, rather than fighting about customs involving a colorful piece of cloth.

Fight for freedom and equality for everyone, or take your US Flag lapel pin and stick it up your ass.

Seriously? The party who idolized Trump is casting aspersions on someone else’s hair? Please…

I realize this is a lightweight barb and not a position paper. If you want to go after Bernie, there are plenty of valid topics to choose from. Call me when you’ve got a grown-up opinion.

Pat Tillman would roll over in his grave if he saw his image being used like this.

Yes, Tillman quit the NFL and volunteered to serve in the army after 9/11, and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan (which the army worked hard to cover up). And he made it abundantly clear, before he left and during his service that he wanted no part of anyone making a hero or an icon out of him. He made a decision based on his personal beliefs and refused to become a poster-boy for it.

That someone wants to make a sneaker ad out of Tillman shows, again, how little conservatives think of veterans. They are props to be used to get people to feel a certain way. What the veteran in question thinks about the subject is clearly irrelevant.

Two minutes of research would have told this meme’s creator that Pat Tillman was an inappropriate centerpiece for his creation. But veterans aren’t worth even two minute’s time to these people.

I know that this has been run everywhere already and the cartoonist lost his job over it. But I want it on my site because when I saw it the first time, I thought it was one of the most powerful editorial cartoons I’ve ever seen. It describes the Trump Administration to a tee.

An artist this skilled and incisive should have a list of job opportunities as long as his arm by now. I hope he finds a home.

Monday, July 1, 2019


As I mentioned in last week’s meme dump, Sweetpea and I got married last week on a beach in Florida. We met in January of 2017, got engaged in May of 2018, moved in together in July of 2018, and now here we are, a married couple.

So if you’ll indulge me a bit, I’ll take a break from my usual political material and talk about our experiences last week.

So far, the best thing about being married is that I no longer have to dither about what to call her: fiancĂ©, fiancĂ©e, financier… girlfriend, lady-friend, life-partner or whatever. Now it’s just “wife.”

“This is my wife, Sweetpea.”

“Have you seen my wife?”

“I’m just waiting for my wife.” (Usually spoked outside a restroom door.)

One night last weekend, I started giggling, out of the blue. She inquired why. I told her, as I was contemplating having a wife, that I suddenly recalled a verse we guys used to repeat as teenagers:

I love my wife, for all my life
Especially in her nightie.
‘Cuz when the moonlight flits, across her tits,
Oh Jesus Christ Almighty!”

(We were not a really a group of deep thinkers as boys.)

All along, we wanted a simple wedding ceremony, just 10 minutes on the beach, and out. A guerilla wedding, if you will. We didn’t want a big crowd either, just her parents and mine. This was all her idea and I was fine with it. It’s what she wanted even though it was her first wedding.

I figured I’ve already had my big wedding to-do. If she wanted hers, I’d be game, but I certainly wasn’t against saving 10-grand and doing it quick and easy on a beach.

Because my folks live on the Florida panhandle, we’d have a place to stay and some foot-soldiers on the ground to help us if need be. So we spent the last year or so putting our plans into motion. Minimalist as they were, we’d still need plane tickets, a hotel, a marriage license, a church official and a place to do the deed.

It’s pretty easy to put that stuff together in this day and age. I found a reverend online who would do any kind of service we wanted, wherever we wanted. Last year when we went to visit my parents, we scouted out an isolated place on the beach, out past where all the hotels and condos were.

We flew down on Saturday, to spend the first couple days with my folks. Dad had all his good pool toys out for us:

Two margaritas, a giant Froot Loop, and Turd Ferguson.

We got our marriage license on Monday, three days before the wedding. Because we were from out of state, we didn’t have to wait the mandatory three days that the natives do, but we would be prepared either way.

Wednesday night, we checked into a Hilton hotel that Dad had arranged for us, right on the beach, and it was freakin’ gorgeous.

The view from our balcony.

They had a nice pool on the grounds, a kiddie pool, a bar, and access to the beach. We used all of it,  believe me! (Well, maybe not the kiddie pool.)

Sweetpea and I spend quite a while trying to determine if the art in our room was supposed to be anything in particular or just an abstract blot.

I see a pissed off goat with smoke horns. Sweetpea saw land surrounded by water. You armchair psychologists can make of that what you will.

Her parents came out to the hotel that night, met my parents and we all had a nice introductory dinner.

Thursday was the Big Day. Wedding at 9:00 AM.

All weddings have at least one crisis, and we got off lucky, but not scot-free. Our little bump was when Sweetpea tried on the floral headpiece we bought for around $60. She was anticipating a few simple interwoven sprigs of baby’s breath. When she tried it on, it was bulkier; more like a crown, which when combined with her simple white summer dress, made her look like she was heading to a Delta House toga party.

We worked on slimming it down by pulling off some of the buds, but it was what it was. I didn’t really want to abandon it; hell it cost more than all of our wedding outfits combined! For what it’s worth, I thought she looked gorgeous in it.

Reverend Michelle picked us up and took us down to our beach spot, where all the parents were waiting for us. We rolled onto the beach, went through the service, exchanged vows and rings, kissed the bride, and were done in no more than five or six minutes. Even after posing for pictures, we were still off the beach within 10 minutes, just like we planned.

There were maybe two other people on the beach aside from us. I don’t think they even noticed what we were doing.

We returned to the hotel for breakfast and then the parents departed. We’d have our honeymoon at the hotel until we left for home on Sunday.

We noticed, on Saturday, that another wedding was taking place on the beach, but right there at the hotel. We could see the whole thing from our balcony.

Someone else’s wedding.

No offense to this couple, but this was everything we wanted to avoid… a big affair right out in front of everyone. You can see other people walking around, or watching the proceedings, or just going for a swim in the background. I did NOT want to be a sideshow; that’s why we wanted to get away from the hotels and condos.

As for the rest of our weekend, it was glorious. We’d go to the beach in the morning,

…shower off, go out to lunch, hit the pool in the afternoon, have drinks and go out to dinner. It was like, “Hey, marriage is easy!

Of course, there’s also that expression, “The honeymoon’s over…”

Worst part of our time there, (aside from feeling like a walrus from all the awesome meals we had), was my learning that when you spend too much time in a bathing suit, it can start to chafe the old undercarriage. It felt like the lining of my trunks was erasing my t’aint. Next thing you know, I’m walking around like I just got off a horse.

The weather was glorious all week, up until Saturday. Luckily we were out on the beach early but got to watch this ominous storm roll in before we got outta Dodge.

It looks like the alien ships are coming, yet everyone else is like, “Meh. I paid for this chair and umbrella for another two hours; I ain’t leavin’.”

It was kind of a gradual thing. One minute it’s reasonably sunny, the next, the cows are flying by.

A panorama shot of it going from nice to not-so-nice in one look.

All weekend long, we just kept talking about how amazing it was that we are now married. (Or as I put it, “You’re stuck with my ass now; there’s a strict no-returns policy in my family.”

I have confidence, though, that this one will stick because I learned something recently. This is my second marriage and it was on the 27th. My sister’s second and current 18-year marriage was on the 27th. My brother’s first and only marriage (of 29 years) was on the 27th. So obviously, my family just has to get married on the 27th of the month and it will last forever!

I don’t believe we all have “that one soulmate,” or in divine intervention, but I’m with the person I’m supposed to be with. She’s the best woman I’ve ever met, or at least the best for me. If I can’t make it work with Sweetpea, I might as well just be a hermit, go off to live in a hole, and eat juniper berries.

Future Bluz, if he doesn’t act right.

It’s on me now to be the husband my baby deserves and be worthy of her love.

Thank you for loving me, Sweetpea. I love you.

Obligatory Rings Shot

Next week, I’ll be back to ranting about politics and discussing the things I missed last week.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Meme, Myself and I

I am out of town this week, so I can go marry the love of my life on a Florida beach, and I'm too preoccupied to come up with anything coherent for you. But I thought this might be a good chance to dump run some of the memes I've been collecting before they become too stale to use.

 Fool me once, shame on me... (well, not ME... maybe some Fox "News" voters.)

Abbie someone?

He's accomplishing the Republican pipe dream.

But then, the deficit is only important to Republicans when the other guys are in charge.

The world's stupidest shell game:

 If they truly believed the Mueller Report exonerated him, they'd be handing it out at news briefings. (If they still had those.)

Poor Mueller. He had no idea how easily this administration can twist no into yes and up into down.

The ever-evolving excuses to cover up criminal behavior...

But the Libs are just politicizing it, right?

Hallmark is missing out on a whole new line...

He is mysterious that way...

Those damned 'roos ruin everything.

It pays to read the labels...

The "Tell-all" we all need to read...

See above.

This one just flat out made me laugh. I curse myself for forgetting to run it at Easter.

OK, I feel loads lighter now.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A New Sheriff in Town

I have high hopes for newly appointed Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Already he’s been tested by the corrupt “business as usual” from his department and has stepped up with a spotlight and broom.

This week he had a 24-year veteran sergeant of the Baltimore police force arrested for assault, false imprisonment and misconduct charges, stemming from an incident wherein the good sergeant chased down and arrested a passerby who commented on an arrest in progress and kept walking.

Here’s the fuller story. Police have a guy in cuffs who was stopped on a warrant check. A guy walking by says to the cops that they shouldn’t make the detainee sit on the wet ground. Sarge chases after him and the guy tells him, “I’m not running away.” Second (subordinate) cop runs over and tackles the guy. They cuff him and begin the arrest.

Other cops come to the scene and pull the guy to his feet. He asks why he’s being arrested. Sarge tells him, “Just go to jail and take your charge like a man.”

He asks again why he’s being arrested. “Because you don’t know how to act,” he’s told.

Sarge’s report says the guy was “interfering” with an arrest.

The only reason we know what really happened is that both officers on the scene were wearing active body cameras and this time, the top brass didn’t conceal the video.

You have to think, both cops knew they were wearing cameras. They must have been pretty sure of their safety to behave like they did, knowing there would be a video record. I can only assume that incidents like this in the past were covered up and the tapes “disappeared.” I’m thankful that this practice seems to be ending with Commissioner Harrison.

Is it any wonder we have riots in big cities? This belligerent behavior is so hard-wired into law enforcement, they can’t avoid behaving this way. Even with an active US Justice Department Consent Decree in force, even in a city still aching from previous riots over police brutality, even with cameras recording every word and every movement, they still act like sociopaths.

Not all of them, obviously. There are plenty of cops who give candy to kids and have great reputations in the neighborhood, and they all run towards the danger as everyone else flees. But stories like this one are rampant. In the past, it was a perp’s word against the cop’s, so no one gave any weight to what some lying criminal had to say. But now the cameras are telling another story… they’re telling us the criminals have a point.

Baltimore police just arrested a guy for making a comment they didn’t like, as he was walking by. That’s it. Dude’s lucky he didn’t get his jaw broken or get choked out, you know, by accident. Or because the cops were suddenly afraid for their lives.

This sergeant made over $243,000 last year, more than half of that in overtime. That makes me wonder about the nature of that overtime. The Gun Trace Task Force debacle highlighted the relative ease with which their team was able to falsify their time cards to rake in the O.T. I have no reason to think that practice was limited to that one team.

I’m gladdened that the new Commish is putting a stake in the ground this stuff. “That officer is tarnishing the badge that we all wear,” he said. “He’s the person in charge of the culture because he’s the supervisor on the scene. He’s the person who’s supposed to be motivating, coaching, cultivating and developing young subordinates into the right way of policing.”

Baltimore police officers were found violating citizens’ constitutional rights with alarming frequency, even with Justice Dept. officers in the car with them. I wonder how long it will take for the message to soak in that business-as-usual will no longer be tolerated. I presume it will take a few more high-profile arrests of the BP’s finest before the message is received.

Meanwhile, the police union, (Fraternal Order of Police) are fighting all of this tooth and nail. I understand that it’s their job to protect their ranks, but there must be a reasoning in place that the ranks have to be worthy of protection. Those prowling around looking a reason to beat some ass cannot be spared the due process they so breezily deny so many of their arrestees.

Ultimately, prosecutors dismissed the case against the wayward spectator almost immediately. Of course, the guy was picked up again the next day, because his car windows were tinted too darkly and the license plate was “positioned in an unusual manner.” Yep, that’s probable cause right there, isn’t it? Then after they pulled him over, they said they smelled marijuana, so they searched his car.

I guarantee you that they were looking for this guy, ready to ring him up on anything. And the fallout from that? The windows were not, in fact, tinted in an illegal manner. Nor did they find any pot. No word on the “unusual” plate positioning.

They did, however, find seven grams of crack on him. (Presumably, this was his and not planted by the cops, because it was in 172 separate packets.)

The fact that the guy was holding does not negate the fact that they went looking for him and pulled him over for specious reasons.

Look, the guy could be a scumbag, no doubt. But we have civil rights laws on the books for reasons, foremost that the cops don’t get to be prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, all rolled into one. There has to be probable cause to stop, detain and search, and that cause cannot be, “Because I think he’s a bad dude.

Good luck to Commissioner Harrison. I hope his message takes root with his department, I truly do.

Otherwise, it’s going to be another hot summer.

Monday, June 10, 2019


It heartens me to see Pride Month activities rolling out all over the country. There is a lot to celebrate in 2019. Just in the lifespan of this blog, LGBT people have gone from protesting to demand the right to marry (and all the privileges that go with it), to seeing that right become the law of the land.

Granted, that law is under attack. Hell, it’s the same with Roe V Wade, and that one’s almost 50 years old. It just goes to show that one can never relax; the religious right is always looking for ways to return us to the Dark Ages, all in the name of The Lord, of course.

I’ve written a lot about LGBT rights over the years, because the denial of rights to this segment of the public has always struck me as barbaric. There was when Maryland took up the issue in 2011, letters to the local newspaper in March and August of 2011, when Maryland passed same-sex marriage in 2012, California’s malodorous Prop 8 in 2013, the SCOTUS decision in 2015, and loads of other times that didn’t command an entire post.

The thing that got me from “supportive but inactive” to “militant” on the issue was getting to know gays and lesbians as friends and coworkers. I suppose it’s worked that way all over the country as more and more people come out.

How anyone can condone creating a “second class” of citizens out of otherwise ordinary Americans is beyond me. And ascribing it to the ravings of an ancient book is just insulting.

It is grossly unfair, inhuman and downright un-American to discriminate on a class of people for nothing more than the way they were born. I’ve often said that it’s like persecuting people for having blue eyes.

To paraphrase the popular meme, if your religion requires you to deny basic human rights to an entire class of people, you need to find a new religion. (Or just chuck the whole thing and think for yourself!)

You’d think that if these religious folks believed in the divinity of their Almighty, they’d have to accept that LGBT people were His creations too. That’s probably why so many religious people insist that gays choose to be that way. Then they can feel free to condemn their behavior or as they like to call it, “the gay lifestyle.

Now I’m reading that a bunch of jagoffs are trying to whip up Straight Pride parades. But before I could even start to formulate a response, it was shown that the idea was started by a couple of these so-called “Proud Boys,” who have a history of crashing rallies and causing violence and trouble. With luck, that association will dampen any enthusiasm for such an event. (I know, may be overly optimistic.)

I hate that whole mindset; that because a historically oppressed minority celebrates or rallies for their rights, these numb-nuts feel they deserve something too. As if straight white males have ever been a persecuted class. Unless you count times when someone takes steps to nullify their customary advantages… That’s when they cry “persecution.”

It’s like the old plea for “Children’s Day,” because every day is Straight White Man’s Day. Or month… or year.

Support of same-sex marriage and basic human rights for the LGBT community is yet another reason to turn out at the polls and vote Democratic. The Religious Right would like nothing better overturn the SCOTUS decision codifying same-sex marriage.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? Couples with children who have been married for years, suddenly stripped of recognition? How does one even go about stripping away people’s rights? How would there not be riots?

Isn’t “religious freedom” great? All you have to do legalize your bigotry is to claim that your religion requires it. And then if you meet any resistance, you just claim persecution and play Victim. 

What a country.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Put'em To Work

Over Memorial Day weekend, Baltimore took another public punch in the mouth from reports of mobs of 300-500 kids running wild around the Inner Harbor (tourist) area. The kids were disrupting traffic, fighting amongst themselves, jumping on cars, robbing and threatening people and basically enjoying the “safety of the herd.”

The police were able to diffuse the worst of the situations and eventually disperse the crowd. Six people were arrested but there were no injuries (caused by the police).

In the aftermath, city officials, citizens, and the media are squabbling over the incident. It’s all the usual stuff…

Arrest the lot of them, they’re all thugs and punks.”

Don’t blame the kids, they don’t have anything else to keep them busy.”

It’s only a few bad apples.”

This is why we need concealed carry.”

And on it goes. Everyone’s talking but there’s no consensus and nothing changes. I expect the same story from 4th of July weekend and Labor Day.

But it did get me thinking, in the broader sense, about what kids today are supposed to do.

There are a lot of things where kids have it better than I did when I was growing up… hundreds of TV stations instead of 4, dazzling video games to play instead of “Pong,” the entirety of civilized knowledge to carry around in one’s pants pocket…

But what about the jobs? When I was 16-17, most of my friends and classmates had jobs. I worked at a grocery store, then a gas station and a record store. I was thankful to avoid the food industry but there were lots of jobs to be found there.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I’m omitting the several months I worked at a glass factory, or what I call, “My Summer in Hell.” I earned a higher wage, but it cost me my job at the grocery store when summer was over. Hence my stint at the world’s chintziest gas station.

Where are the jobs for teens now? There used to be tons of jobs in stores in malls, but those are just gone. Disappeared along with the malls themselves. Amazon put them all out of business. My old record stores? Even in the malls that are left, there aren’t many music stores. I mean, why would there be? Who even buys the physical music media anymore? Any song you want to hear is only a .99 download away (if you can’t figure out how to get it for free).

Remaining retail outlets are rolling out self-checkouts as fast as they can. There go the cashier jobs. When I go to the big box stores, there are still a handful of cashiers alongside the self-scanning stations, but not nearly as many as there used to be. And the more we become accustomed to scanning our own stuff, the fewer cashiers there will be. Pretty soon, it’ll be down to one poor lonely cashier, there solely to ring up the rebels and cranks who refuse to do it themselves.

Even warehouse and stocking jobs are becoming automated. Amazon uses robots all over their warehouses. Grocery stores, at least the bigger ones, are often stocked overnight, which is not conducive to school-aged labor.

And where there ARE jobs available, they have to fight 20-somethings and retirees for them.
So what’s a kid supposed to do in 2019, get a fake ID and drive for Uber? IF they can get their hands on a car? That’s why we see kids running drugs or working the squeegee on street corners.

I got my first job at 16 and but for a few brief gaps, worked continuously through college and beyond. Those part-time jobs paid for almost the entirety of my college education and gave me money for dates, gas, beer and the occasional record album.

Those jobs taught me about the real world, where I had to be responsible, dedicated and do things correctly. When I didn’t, I’d get written up or fired. It was on me to stay in my employer’s good graces.

I’ve always been proud of my relative* self-sufficient teenage years and I was only able to feel that way because there were jobs available to me.

I say relative* because I lived at home and commuted to college, so I had free room and board. Going to a local and affordable state school was a conscious choice I made to keep costs down. Also, note that this was back when a part-time job could still pay for college. Current tuition rates, in comparison to current wages, make that impossible today.

I don’t want to make alibis for anti-social behavior, but I might feel a little boisterous too if I had no money, no job, and no prospects for changing that equation. City leaders can ruminate on creating places for leisure activities, but that only moves the problem to a different location.

A job teaches responsibility and instills a degree of pride and self-worth. Maybe they can find a way to create some of those instead of kicking around another skateboard park or motocross track that never comes to pass.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Odd Bits - The Road Hog Edition

Happy Memorial Day to all with family members who have served but never returned home. They did what they did so we may do what we do.

On tap today, we have two debunkings and one pet peeve. So let’s have at it…

Hot Shots
This week’s gun control argument fallacy culled from a steaming pile of Facebook:

This is a simple “strawman” argument… The fallacy is that no one is proposing to “outlaw guns.” And the inference here has to be all guns because they're saying the end result is "no more guns." So they’re perverting what the overwhelming majority of gun control advocates are advocating, making it broader and more absolute, and then attacking that as if it was the legitimate argument. That’s the strawman fallacy.

Most gun control advocates are for banning semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 along with high-capacity clips. Others are backing more robust background checks, including those with domestic violence in their past, those with mental health problems, and just for kicks, people on the fucking Terrorist No-Fly List. None of the proposals rise to the mantra of “banning (all) guns.”

But it’s harder to whip up persecution hysteria over common-sense, measured responses, so they go with “The Libs are comin’ ta gitcher guns.” And why not? It’s good for gun sales and that’s all the NRA really cares about.

Ace’s High

…Said no one ever on Fox News, from November 2008-January 2017.

If anyone believes in this line of defense, I want to see an instance where they upheld the same premise with an opponent in office. If not, then it labels this idea as nothing more than another partisan shot that only applies when your own guy is in charge.

Fox “News” and conservatives, in general, spent eight years obstructing every action, drumming up fake investigations, throwing racially charged accusations and questioning Obama’s legal legitimacy. “Gotta Support the President,” my ass.

Then again, it’s doubtful that Ace has any functioning brain cells left after decades of living the Rock n Roll lifestyle. Plus, having to listen to KISS music nonstop…

And Now On To the Pet Peeve
Drivers! Argh! Big surprise that it’s Maryland drivers who are making me crazy. But this time I have photographic evidence.

First case: I’m trying to pull out of the Burger King parking lot after lunch and I need to make a right. There are two lanes to accommodate the exit: one for going left (or straight across the street) and one to go right. (Plus one on the far left for entering the lot.)

Naturally, there’s a giant SUV straddling both exit lanes. And of course, there is no blinker in use. I have no idea where this beast is going and she didn’t leave me any room to squeeze by to make my right.

Because she was making a left, (as I eventually observed), she had to wait for traffic from both directions to clear. I could have made my right easily, if she in the left-turn lane, or was even two feet to the left. But no, in Baltimore, it’s all about ME and where I’M going. Screw everyone else.

I guess it serves me right for eating at Burger King. Maybe this is nature’s way of telling me I need to eat more salad.

So now, not more than one week later, I run up on the same situation.

This time it’s out at an intersection rather than a parking lot exit. We need to make a right but there’s another SUV, no blinker on, smack dab in the middle of a road that can easily accommodate two vehicles side by side. If he’s over to the left, I and any other car can make a right on red if we need. But this pig is in there hogging the whole width of the street, for absolutely no relevant reason other than obliviousness.

Any of these instances can just happen, I understand that. But this happens ALL THE TIME here in Baltimore. I suppose it bugs me all the more because this is something I make a conscious effort not to do. Although sometimes it bites me in the ass when I pull to the left lane at an intersection where there is no left-turn signal just so others can make the right. And when the light turns green, then the guy in front of me puts on his blinker and sits there waiting to make a left.

The smooth flow of traffic requires all parties to do their part to keep things moving. You get one Me-First asshole out there, thinking only of himself and the whole works get gummed up. You get blocked merge lanes and intersection gridlock and eventually road rage fatalities.

So it’s probably a good thing that I don’t carry a gun in the car.

What I really want is a hood-mounted water cannon. Maybe if I clean off their back windshield (or blow it out) they might notice that there are other people on the road.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I considered smudging out the license plates on the offending cars, but then I figured, “Screw’em,” because that would take extra thought and effort on my part to cover someone who exhibited neither.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Maybe the Next Border Wall We Build Should Be Around Alabama

It’s hard not to address the latest Republican “elephant in the room,” the new draconian abortion laws passed or passing in Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama.

This is a topic I’ve addressed a number of times in the past, most recently in March, when the Current Occupant was deceivingly describing abortions as if babies were being sliced and diced like they were being served at a Japanese steak house.

These laws are cruel, inhuman, and degrading, and it’s been argued that these qualities are a feature rather than a byproduct. The fact that Alabama’s zero-tolerance law was passed by 25 white men is a slap in the face the 52% of our country’s population who just became second-class citizens.

But this is the Religious Right’s big chance to see serious movement on Roe vs Wade. All of these laws are designed to go to the Supreme Court for final resolution, in hopes of overturning the almost 50-year old precedent.

Every prospective justice makes a point of telling the Senate that they intend to leave settled law alone. But we know that it’s just lip service. It’s what they have to say to get confirmed. Then they’re free to do whatever they want because of the lifetime tenure that comes with the position.

It’s no accident that these harsh anti-abortion laws are coming into play now. The last two Supreme Court appointees were hand-picked to rule in favor of laws that limit abortion.

The current panel has already overturned a longstanding precedent in recent weeks, prompting Justice Breyer to point out this slippery slope in his dissent. Many are perceiving that as a warning that Roe is in danger as well as “stare decisis.”

Georgia passed the ban after six weeks and everyone lost their minds, with talks of statewide boycotts abounding. Then Alabama said, “Hold my beer.”

The Alabama law, which essentially outlaws abortion without exception, is the harshest of all the new legislation and is, therefore, the most talked about. Even some leading Republicans have expressed doubts about it, as having gone too far.

This one is likely to be struck down by the Supremes, but I worry that it’s so severe that it makes the other laws, with the 6-8 week limits, look reasonable in comparison. And it lets those leading Republicans appear to be thoughtful and even-handed.

So we could be there celebrating the denial of the Alabama law, only to have the rest of them upheld, and be left with women having to seek abortions before they’re even sure they’re pregnant… which accomplishes the same thing the Alabama law was meant to do.

If I was a young female and living in one of these jerkwater states, I’d be stockpiling Plan B like Trump stockpiles gold shit… IF I could even find it there. I’d probably have to take a road trip to get it and then hope the pharmacist doesn’t have deeply held religious beliefs about it.

I liked Alyssa Milano’s suggestion about women going on a sex strike, in protest. I wrote something about that many years ago, I forget for which controversy, but it was more targeted. I suggested maybe the wives of these legislators cut them off until they back the hell out of women’s uteri.

I am outraged at this intrusion by a minority of political weasels into the personal lives of women. How DARE they substitute their values and morals and judgment for that of others! I mentioned last March that if I were a woman, “outrage” wouldn’t begin to cover it.

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 about it, 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!” Fuck you right in the ear.

As my mom always says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

I hope that the rise of these laws reminds the country that the rights we’ve taken for granted are under attack by Republicans. And unless we do something about it in 2020, the effects will be felt for generations to come.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Where You Start Isn't Always Where You End Up

We’re going to have a major opportunity in 2020 and I’d feel a lot better about it if Democrats didn’t have such a history of screwing these things up.

I know I’m not the only one talking about this; I just want to add my voice to the chorus.

This is going to be a real horse-race of a primary season. There are so many options out there, many of whom have rabid followers. No matter who ends up being the nominee, there will be some salty people out there.

What we need to do, as Democrats, is to make sure the final choice is clear. No matter who is ultimately nominated, he or she will be better than the current occupant, by a landslide. Conscience votes, protest votes, and non-votes will only lead to another four years of this unmitigated disaster of a regime.

We need to see this election as a binary equation. Who do we want, A or B? Feast or Famine? Pool or Pond?

"Pond" would be good for you. (Source)

There is no Miss Congeniality in presidential politics. (Vice Presidents aside…heh.)

We either get a president who respects climate change, reproductive rights, a functioning government, etc., or we don’t. Those are our choices.

I see other liberal blogs that are worried that current frontrunner, Joe Biden, isn’t liberal enough for the burgeoning hard-left movement. But here’s the thing… Obama wasn’t either.

For example, Obama didn’t enter office supporting same-sex marriage. But do you know what? He did by the time he left office. He did because his supporters moved him that way.

The same can happen with any other Democratic nominee. When the culture moves, so do the politicians. (The good ones, anyway.) Politicians who don’t respect the will of their constituents get replaced.

There is too much at stake to fret about any nominee whose stance on any given issue isn’t exactly where we’d like it. The only choice we have is to compare that stance with that of Individual One.

OR, Individual Two. Maybe a miracle can happen and Trump will be out of office by the next election.

Geez, wouldn’t it be something if both Trump and Pence were out, and Pelosi was President? What would even happen then? Would she want to keep the job? Would the other nominees let her, without a fight? It’s a juicy situation… Granted, I think it’s vastly unlikely. I don’t think either one of the current occupants is going anywhere because the Republican Senate will never let it happen.

That’s why it’s just as important to elect some more Democratic Senators. A new president will need someone to work with, as opposed to the blockade Obama had for six of his eight years. Getting rid of Mitch McConnell alone will do wonders for the morale of the 99% of the country he doesn’t listen to.

If we want big changes, we have to have the presidency AND both sides of Congress, like the Republicans just did. Without all three, we can look forward to a lot more nothing.

So let’s not get too carried away with the minutia of the primary candidates. I hope all involved will keep the fight pointed at the Republicans and keep the infighting to a minimum. Why help the opponent by drawing blood on ourselves?

Someone is going to come out the winner. Whomever it is, that’s who we have to rally behind. I’m thinking that if everyone fights a good fight, there can be cabinet positions for everyone.

There are more Democrats than there are Republicans. If we show up and vote together, we win.