Monday, February 24, 2020

Debatable Topics


Last week’s Democratic debate in Nevada is the first one I actually enjoyed. Obviously, it helps that the herd has been thinned a bit, so we got to hear from everyone. But man, where the hell has Elizabeth Warren been all this time. She came out like a gangsta and gave it to Bloomberg like she just caught him banging the nanny.

Everyone was kind of testy, weren’t they? While Liz was throwing haymakers, Bernie was grumpy as always, and Amy and Pete were fighting like siblings at the kid’s table. I felt like someone should have put a parent between them.  Joe would start calmly but do a slow build so that by the time he was done, he was rolling like Bluto giving his “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” speech.

It’s not that I want to see some good presidential prospects (and Bloomberg) tearing each other down, but damn, it’s about time someone showed a little feistiness.

Speaking of Bloomberg, watching him “debate,” left me with one dominating thought: “THIS is the guy everyone is so worked up about?” He looked like a barely animated corpse. All he needed to do to complete the illusion is do the soft-shoe and sing “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

I wanted Amy Klobuchar to do better, I really did. A couple weeks ago, I took an online quiz that was supposed to match my opinions with those of the Democratic candidates. My results came out 1) Klobuchar 2) Warren. So that made me want to give her a serious listen. But she just came across like a freshman trying to justify a spot at the cool kids’ table. Then after the debate, she cut a path straight for the exit, passing up the chance to look confident and schmoozy with the others. She looked pissed, which is probably not the image you want when you have a rep for being a mean boss.

The night’s clear winner was Warren. Her demolition of Bloomberg was essentially an audition for the job of dismantling that other crass billionaire, on a debate stage this summer. She has passion and wit and a plan for everything.

Some people like the idea of a president they “can have a beer with.” I say, screw that. If I wanted an amiable drunk, I’d vote for Norm from Cheers. I want the president to be the smartest fucker in the room. I think Liz was the smartest person on that stage by far. She’s honest and transparent about what she intends to do. Her entire career has centered on ending the enormous advantages that Wall Street and the financial sector enjoy in this country, to the detriment of everyone else who’s not filthy rich. Her track record says that she’ll do what she says she’s going to do.

Obviously, that scares the hell out of the 1-percenters, who will do anything to keep her from winning (like ignoring her in news reports and polling projections.) So I think it’s a shame that her debate performance didn’t translate into a better showing in the Nevada caucus. Maybe it was too close to the event. Maybe it was just because it was a caucus, which for the life of me, I can’t understand why they even exist.

Is it not enough just to place votes and count them up? Why go through the whole dog and pony show? This allows a fraction of the voting public to participate in the primary, which then gets blown completely out of proportion. It almost sounds like the system is rigged by a small percentage of people who love hanging out with strangers in gymnasiums for several hours and arguing about politics. I say, the hell with “tradition,” when your tradition is so useless and stupid. Cast the votes, count the votes, declare a winner.

I know the media wants to run the shocking finale before the first act is through, but there’s a long way to go here before anyone gets too anxious about the eventual Democratic nominee. Three states have spoken, we have 47 more, plus a couple territories, yet to come. I read somewhere that there have been only 70-some delegates assigned, out of over 3000 in total.

The media seems to want the story to be about the inevitability of Bernie Sanders. Even the Russians are working for him now. But lest you think it’s because he’s one of them, I think it’s the opposite. He’s the one the Russians (and Republicans) want to run against their puppet Trump. They must have the most confidence in their campaign tactics that involve him, or else they’d push someone else.

It reminds me of that scene in “All the President’s Men” where Deep Throat, (Hal Holbrook) is describing Nixon’s rat-fucking tactics to Bob Woodward (Robert Redford): (and I’m paraphrasing because it’s been so long since I’ve seen it) “Who do the Republicans want to run against? McGovern. And who did they end up running against? McGovern.”

Bernie’s not my guy. If he wins the nomination, I’ll support him, but he’s not my choice. I don’t see the point in campaigning on promises that have zero chance of being met. Even if he wins, he’ll need Congress to go along with his teardown of The System. No matter who’s in control of the House and Senate, I just don’t see that happening.

If we’re lucky, we may end up with a gradual move in that direction and if the Democrats can stack some wins, continue the process until it ends up something like Bernie’s envisioning. But as soon as the GOP regains control of anything, it’ll be killed in its crib.

And all this is assuming the new Trump-appointed judges and Supreme Court majority don’t end it before it can start.

Not Debatable At All
Just to put a bow on last week’s story about the “Ghetto Steaks…”

Sweetpea did indeed turn those tough, gnarly, leathery steaks into something much more fitting.
Over the weekend, she stuck them all in the crockpot and shredded them down. Then she filled some a cupcake pan with the remains, added some vegetables and a little juice, and froze them. Instant dog meals, just nuke and serve.

Now before you get PETA on our case for giving such low-grade meat to a dog, please realize that we have a Labrador retriever. It doesn’t matter how tough the meat is because he doesn’t bother to chew. He just laps down whatever is in his bowl and then comes back to see what else we have. He will eat a filet mignon or a bowl of sawdust with equal enthusiasm.

In our dog’s eyes, as long as we keep putting stuff in their bowl, we’re all Emeril Lagasse.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Odd Bits - The Ghetto Steak Edition


Ten Years of Lying
I saw this meme on Facebook the other day… it was so bad it had to be a domestic product. The Russian troll farms produce better propaganda than this.

When the hell did anyone reputable ever say that these things were going to happen “in 10 years?”

I’ve been reading about “global warming/climate change since the terms were invented and I never once saw anyone claim that “in 10 years” one of these things would happen.

This is a “Straw Man Fallacy” because the creator mischaracterizes his foe’s argument and then attacks that, rather than looking at the consensus coming from experts in the field.

Plus, we can look around us most any week and find new symptoms of a destabilizing planet, from Australia wildfires, to massive ice bergs breaking off, to 70-degree temperatures in Antarctica, to every year setting a new record for global high temperatures.

This meme also doesn’t account for efforts mankind has taken to avert these catastrophes.

Out of oil? We’ve gotten a lot better at finding and extracting oil. At the moment, there seems to be plenty. That won’t last forever, of course. Oil is a finite resource. We won’t run out of oil, but at some point, it will become too expensive to extract it.

Another Ice Age? Frankly, I think the author pulled this one out of his ass. I’ve never, ever, heard anyone prognosticate that another Ice Age is on the horizon. He probably just needed something for the 70s.

Acid Rain? Cutting carbon emissions and other poisons previously released into the atmosphere has been the work of the EPA, right up until the Trump* administration neutered it. Without environmental regulations being what they were, acid rain would have become a more common problem.

Ozone Layer? Same there. Notice how you rarely see aerosol cans anymore. The EPA again worked to get ozone-destroying chemicals out of common products (or at least greatly lessen the amount).

Ice caps gone? I think that one’s too fresh because we’re losing ice cover at the poles at record speed. There’s no easy fix there because the ice caps are disappearing due to the end result of all our activity raising the temperature all over the world.

Then the part about taxes? Taxes go up, taxes go down, they get allotted all over town. But that’s always the big concern, isn’t it? “Oh my God, I might have to pay for something that doesn’t benefit me tomorrow.

Maybe not tomorrow, but a big bill is coming due in our lifetimes. If we don’t figure out a way to get everyone on board, it’s going to suck all the joy out of being able to tell these climate-deniers “I told you so.”

A Modern Fable
The weekend before last, Sweetpea was out running errands. When she came out of the liquor store, she saw I guy hawking his wares out of his car. He had fish, steaks, and ribs, and was selling them cheap. He told her she could have a package of 9 steaks for $25.

She called me from her cell and asked me what I thought. I said, “$25 is a good price for 9 steaks. Take a look at them and if they look good, buy them.” He showed her the top two in the package, they looked good so she came home with the steaks.

Right off the bat, upon unwrapping the package, she saw that there were only eight of them. “Still,” I said, “$25 for eight steaks is a good deal too.”

Upon further inspection, they were awfully thin too, only about a half-inch thick. Plus, some of them were pretty narrow.

OK, so they weren’t very substantial. But what was there looked pretty good. We decided to grill them the next night. How bad could they be?

Worst steak in the world. Sweetpea knows her way around a grilled steak so I know it wasn’t her methods. But these things were tough, like shoe leather. And about as tasty. I could barely even cut through it. I had to hold the bone, sink my teeth in and pull just to get a bite. It was quite a mandibular workout. I wonder if it was even cow.

Plans now are to boil the rest down, mince them up, and give them to the dog.

The moral of the story: No matter how good the deal is, never trust ghetto steaks from a liquor store parking lot.

Bluz on Film
Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen a lot of new movies. Not that the movies were necessarily new but new to me. Saw some on the movie channels, a couple on new DVDs, a couple in the theater. I figured I’d give some quick impressions, which may be helpful if you’ve ever considered seeing any of these.

Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker: (Theater) I don’t know why so many people gave this such a hard time. I guess expectations were just so high… high enough that there’s no way some people won’t be disappointed. I liked it just fine… it was what the Star Wars movies are supposed to be: action-packed popcorn movies.

1917: (Theater) I mentioned this here, when Sweetpea and I had our Baltimore Staycation. I thought it was superb, and I marveled the whole time about how they can maintain the “one-unbroken-shot” motif throughout the whole movie.

Men in Black – International: (Pay-cable) Fun movie but it just doesn’t have the same snap without Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Long Shot: (Pay-cable) Very funny movie. Seth Rogan plays a schlubby guy who becomes a speechwriter for Secretary of State and presidential candidate, Charlize Theron. (She used to babysit for him, in their youth). I love when the schlubby guy gets the girl, even though I know damn well that it’s as unrealistic as no innocent bystanders getting shot in a Die Hard movie. And by God, Charlize Theron may be the most gorgeous woman on earth.

Godzilla – King of the Monsters: (Pay cable) Also on cable. Monsters fight each other while the government tries to decide which ones are on their side. I love creature features but I have no idea how a movie with so many monsters could be so dull and slow-moving.

Zombieland 2: (DVD) If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. The big difference is that their angle on the zombie genre is no longer new, so it loses that little “zing” of originality. Still, there were some big laughs.

Terminator – Dark Fate (DVD) I’m a big fan of the franchise, but I don’t see why everyone was so down on this movie. I liked it. It’s what you expect from a Terminator movie. It picked up following T2 and ignored everything else. I wanted to see it in the theater, but it wasn’t there long enough. Three weeks and gone.

Birds of Prey (the Harley Quinn movie) (Theater) In my review of Suicide Squad, a few years back, I said, “I would watch a whole movie about Harley Quinn.” And so I did. In this R-rated DC Comics film, The Joker’s ex finds herself missing his protection when all those she wronged before are looking to get even. Another apparent bomb at the box office, I liked it anyway. People are so hard to please anymore. I find the character, as brilliantly played by Margot Robbie, audacious, hilarious, vulnerable and ultimately fascinating. One part of me thinks I could “fix” her, while the other part knows I’d just get screwed over in the end.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (DVD): I love the New Jersey series of Kevin Smith movies (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, etc.) This guy was running the continuing arc of a multi-film universe long before Marvel ever started theirs with Iron Man. Anyway, this one is basically one long series of recurring cameos by stars from the other films. There’s lots of meta-moments and inside jokes that we’ve come to expect. I loved it.



Monday, February 10, 2020

Voting Early and Often


Last week I participated in the first of several 2020 elections. This one was the primary for the empty Elijah Cummings seat in the 7th Congressional District. It was odd because it was the only race on the ballot (what with being a special election to fill the rest of his vacant term).

In April, we’ll vote again for the general election for that seat, as well as the primary for the same seat and other races of interest, like the one for president. The final vote will be the usual one in November.

Sweetpea and I ran right out at 7:00 AM to go vote and it was easily the fastest voting experience I ever had. Sure, only having one race on the ballot speeds things through. But at least at our voting place, they seemed to have their act together.

I was glad I knew who I was voting for when I walked in because if I hadn’t, it might have taken me another five minutes just to read the list of candidates. There were 24 of them, all running for that one seat. (And that didn’t include the seven Republicans running.)

I recognized four of them: one person whose family name is all over Baltimore politics, another was Cummings’ widow, another had spent a buttload of money on Facebook ads, and finally the one for whom I voted, Kweisi Mfume.

I knew he was a former president of the NAACP but I voted for him because he had occupied that same Congressional seat back in the 90s. I preferred to vote for someone who already knew how things worked in Congress, and wouldn’t need a lot of time and orientation. The dude has big shoes to fill. (I grant that someone may need to brief him on the cultural differences in the House between the 90s and now.)

What really got my attention about this voting experience was that they had on-the-spot voter registration. You can walk in there for the first time, register, and then go vote.

And that’s how it should be in every voting precinct in the country. It can’t be that hard… if the staggeringly bureaucracy that is Maryland state and local government can pull it off, how complicated can it really be?

But you won’t see this where Republicans are in charge because the last thing they want is for more people to vote. That’s why they don’t allow on-site registration, they curtail early voting, understaff and under-equip voting sites (especially in urban areas), and systematically purge the voter rolls (especially in urban jurisdictions), all under the guise of “preventing fraud.”

As anyone who’s bothered to look it up knows, on-site voter fraud is a statistically negligible event, even less than the margin of error. All the studies show it, including the one from the Bush Administration, who set out to prove that voter fraud was a serious problem and was being perpetrated by Democrats. The study found two things, Jack and Shit. The few fraudulent votes they found were for Republicans. They had to bury the whole thing because it didn’t accomplish its original goal, to pin voter fraud on the Dems and justify their voter suppression efforts.

A separate 14-year Loyola study found 31 instances of documented on-site voter fraud, out of over a billion votes. And almost all of them were garden-variety mistakes or bureaucratic errors rather than a plan to influence the election.

Yet, every time you ask a Republican about making it easier to vote, they act like there is an army of zombies and derelicts out there just waiting to vote under false pretenses. They love to point to dead people on the voter rolls as evidence of fraud. If anything, it’s evidence of shoddy bookkeeping, which should be tightened up. Wake me up when votes start to appear under those names. It just isn’t happening.

And what’s the Republican fix to dead people still being on voter rolls? Do they run a compare from death notices to the voter list? Hell no. They delete addresses of anyone who hadn’t voted recently or responded to a postcard. The other (accurate) way has no up-side for them.

On-site voter fraud would be the least effective way of election tampering, yet that’s the area where the GOP wants to concentrate their efforts, by requiring official IDs, which are selected specifically to make it easier for their people to vote rather than the enemy. Student IDs… out. NRA membership cards… in.

If you look into voter fraud at all, you’ll see that the most frequent and effective method of voter fraud involves absentee ballots. But nothing they have ever proposed to ferret out voter fraud has touched absentee ballots. I suspect that’s because the military uses them for all deployed soldiers. I suppose even those on-base use them too if they’re still registered in their home towns.

The only way to change any of this situation is to vote out those who created it. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, because of all the chicanery going on. 

Republicans know deep down that there are more prospective and registered Democrats than there are of them, so the only way to stay in power is to rig the system. Hence all the barriers, hence ignoring the Russians, hence the gerrymandering, hence the perverting of democracy while wrapping themselves in the flag.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Telling Those Assholes to Shut Up


Looks like the Trial That Wasn’t is wrapping up now. The prosecution is re-stating what they’ve already shown to be true and the defense will pretend that it never happened and everyone is gathered there for no apparent reason.

Delta House got a fairer hearing from Dean Wormer.

The only real question is which fig leaf would each wavering Senator grasp onto to cover their ass? And really it doesn’t even matter. If one doesn’t work, they just move on to the next one.


The only thing missing from the whole affair is Adam Schiff and the rest of the House Managers yelling “Blowjob” in between coughs.

After the inevitable acquittal, the first order of business back at the House of Representatives should be to subpoena John Bolton, Lev Parnas, and everyone else related to the new revelations. Get that video of Trump having dinner with the Ukrainian henchmen on the record. Get that audio of Trump telling them to “take care of” the Ambassador on every news station. Start the whole process again.

If the Senate won’t give them a real trial this time, keep sending them impeachment articles until they do. (They won’t, but it will keep the heat on Trump.) The case needs to be made crystal clear to the American public. Trump is a criminal and we have the evidence. There is no gray area here.

Of course, the Republicans are already making noises about impeaching Biden as soon as he takes office (should he win), just like they planned to do to Hilary. The big difference is that there is no evidence to back up their conspiracy theory. Hell, Snopes debunked all their talking points before they even became talking points.

Plus, if the Democrats keep the House, how are the Republicans going to start an impeachment hearing? Maybe I’m missing something from my governmental education, but doesn’t it take the House to produce and vote on articles of impeachment? How are Republicans going to pull that off? After the Blue Wave of 2018, I don’t think it’s going to get any better for them in the House. And with some breaks, they might even lose the Senate too.

And that’s exactly what we need because a new Democratic president will not get anything done without cooperation from both houses. Executive orders can only go so far. But at least they can go as far as to erase everything Trump did. The government needs a complete rebuild, after the damage done by this administration.

Debunkery
Republicans finally got their wish and have begun publicizing the name of the alleged Whistleblower. Over the weekend, I started seeing this meme pop up on Facebook.

I made a few edits. The radical right might be spreading this guy’s name and image, but I’m not going to help.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I’m assuming this is the guy but I could well be wrong. I have no evidence or proof that it is.  Nor do I guarantee the images aren’t photoshopped. I only know that Republicans are circulating the name and image and whoever he is, the rednecks are outside looking for him.

This is wrong on several levels, not least of which is blowing up the whistleblower program. There’s a reason for that program: it keeps mob mentality from harming someone serving the public interest. It’s just funny how the fact that none of the information initially provided by the Whistleblower has been proven wrong. In fact, the transcripts released by the White House essentially prove his point.

But that doesn’t keep people with their heads in the sand (or someplace warmer, smellier, and more humid) from going all Keyboard Vigilante on the guy.

But as to the contents of the meme, I have two major points.

First off, who says the WB hasn’t appeared in pictures with Republicans? Some guy working in a Republican Administration may well have pictures with the entire Cabinet. Picking out just these shots to make him look like a Democratic operative is intellectually dishonest. It’s no more valid than those misleadingly-edited Planned Parenthood “sting” videos.

And secondly, who else is left to call a foul on obvious criminal behavior? It’s not like the Republicans did anything about it. The Republicans who were initially involved made the call to move the recordings and transcripts to a secure server, to avoid discovery. And the Republicans in the Senate just showed everyone how seriously they take the concept of “policing their own.”

The dude took his life into his own hands and followed the official protocol to let the Powers That Be know that a serious incident took place, one that had vast legal ramifications. As far as I’m concerned, he’s an American hero.

And now on to the obligatory… “If someone had taken identical actions against Obama, Republicans would be throwing the fucker a parade.”

I’m Paying You to Get a Little Track Laid, Not Jump Around Like a Bunch of Kansas City Chiefs…
Congratulations to the Kansas City (Missouri) Chiefs. I was rooting for them for a couple reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s been 50 freakin’ years since they’ve even been in one. That is a looong-suffering fan base. The Chiefs vs Vikings in Super Bowl IV was the second Super Bowl I ever saw, and probably the first I paid any attention to. (I was 9 and just starting to follow football.)

The Chiefs have also been quite entertaining to watch all year and they didn’t disappoint last night. That was an exciting game all the way through. I like Patrick Mahomes, who has the best name ever. Just calling him by name makes it sound like you’re best buds.

Lastly, while I didn’t have anything against the 49ers in particular, I don’t want them to win that 6th Super Bowl, at least not until my Steelers win their 7th. Petty? Maybe. Do I care? Not even a little.  

It’s bad enough sharing the honors with the damned Patriots.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Low Point of the 21st Century (so Far)


That’s what it seems like, already. I know the century just shy of 20% of the way through, but I don’t know what a worse level of political discourse would even look like.

And by political discourse, I’m not talking about the garbage that goes on at social media sites or comment sections. I’m talking about the internal function of the government.

The 2000s have already introduced us to “alternative facts,” and general indifference to public figures telling obvious, easily refutable lies and those lies being vigorously adopted by the liar’s cult followers. Which brings us to the reality that we have one side of the Senate who refuses to listen to or even be in the room for the presentation of a legitimate case for the impeachment of the president.

They say there’s nothing new, while they actively prevent the addition of anything new. (That just harks back to the good old days when they complained about how Obamacare wasn’t working, while they actively sabotaged it.) They said the impeachment was too rushed, now they’re setting a land speed record getting it through the Senate.

The thing is, the GOP senators know that the evidence is correct. They know that offering bribes to a foreign country to induce them to interfere with our election is an impeachable offense. They know that if there was exculpatory evidence to be had or witnesses to bolster the president’s case, they’d be brought out.

They know that Trump is a friggin’ idiot and a danger to the country and Constitution.

Yet still, they deny, defer, alibi, excuse, rationalize and squirm.

And I can see why they do. They’re afraid. They know that their political career could well end with a vote to hear evidence or a vote to impeach. And the number one Commandment of the modern politician is “Thou shalt not cause hindrance to getting re-elected.”

They know what their disobedience will bring about.

They’ll have plum committee positions taken away. They’ll suddenly have well-funded primary challengers. The President will tweet mean things about them, causing his minions and the inevitable bot brigade to follow suit. Some of them will issue threats, especially the ammo-sexuals and professional trolls.

It’s not by accident that the only Republican Trump critics are former or soon-to-be-former Congressmen.

It’s so much easier to stay in line and hide behind Mitch. Mitch cannot be shamed. There is no amount of political blowback he won’t happily withstand if doing so cements his power and that of the GOP. Mitch McConnell will withstand a Category 5 PR Shit Storm and the only thing that will make him reverse course is if his corporate benefactors (like the Koch Brother) tell him to.

But the Kochs and Waltons of the world want to see health care continue to erode and Social Security go away, so they keep their puppets in office, right where they’re the most useful. Wall Street can’t wait to get their hands on seniors’ retirement money. If they go bust, so what? They’ll get another government bailout. And the seniors? Not their problem. They should have invested smarter. And because the Trump administration is doing away with the Fiduciary Rule (meaning an investment company must put their client’s interests before their own), they have no obligation to guide them toward safer investments. Isn’t the free market wonderful?

The Democrats running for president should be beating this issue like a drum. This should be right in Warren’s wheelhouse. Republicans want to end Social Security… the fund we’ve all been paying into our entire lives! McConnell’s also mentioned in the past, out loud. Whip that news on some senior citizens. Run that interview with Trump from last week non-stop, talking about cutting “entitlements.” It’s a major chance to peel off some 55-and-over conservatives.

“Isn’t giving up your Social Security too high of a price to pay just to ‘own the Libs?’”

“’Liberal tears’ are not enough to pay for your retirement home.”

Seniors are the most reliable voting block there is. To threaten their retirement income is to invite the wrath.

Go ahead, try to suppress their votes with long lines. They’ll bring chairs. They’ve got all day.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Homeless Thoughts - The Princely Edition


I do “Homeless Thoughts” posts when I have several ideas that are too short to make “Odd Bits” posts. Although we’ll see how this shakes out. Sometimes I’m not sure how things are going to shake out until I get to the end.

Rush to Judgement
The Senate Republicans mad dash to fill judicial seats with their own people makes perfect sense not just because they might only have the rest of this year to do so, but because it might ensure another four.

They may well need friendly judges in place when all the voter suppression, election-fixing charges, and recount requests get filed. They already have SCOTUS, but the top court may not even be brought to bear if all the lower courts find in favor of the suppressors.

From the “What Are They Thinking?” Dept.
When walking from my office to the subway last Monday, I saw that the Powers That Be installed a series of plastic posts along the main drag into Baltimore’s Harbor East office complex, to seal off a bike lane.

My first thought was that they’d have to be bendy, like ski slalom gates, or else they won’t last long around here. So I walked over to test one… nope, it was rigid, a piece of PVC stuck in a collar, somehow attached to the street.

Are they freakin’ crazy? I don’t see how those are going to last a month. Some idiot who’s talking on the phone is bound to mow over a half dozen at a time. And the ones he misses, bored kids are going to knock over out of mischief or boredom.

Lo and behold, when I went back to work the next day, I could see it starting.

I hope they have someone on retainer to fix these, or else these things will soon be only a distant memory.

Memories… Like the [something, something] Moonlight
I have a list of ideas for this post jotted down on a pad by my computer. I made the notes last week, before Sweetpea and I had a little getaway. (More on that later).

So I come back to my desk, ready to write my post, I check the list, and the first Item I see says “Steamed Vajj.”

I have no idea what the hell I was talking about. I mean, I’m sure it had something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow’s new candle:


It must have been something I was enthusiastic about because it was the first item on the list, which meant it was the one that caused me to start the list in the first place. I must not have wanted to let that one get away. Alas, I should have added a little more detail.

I have the memory of a goldfish anymore. It’s probably time for me to start dipping my CBD gummies into a big jar of Gingko Biloba.

Royally Steamed
Not that it matters, but I totally support the Harry formerly known as Prince, for walking away from royal life. It’s easy for people to harrumph from the gallery but it must be a real burden to live under such a spotlight and microscope. I don’t blame Harry one bit for wanting to protect his family from the howling jackals who drove his mom to her death. Riches, fame, and royalty didn’t do HER much good.

If he wants to step out and become his own man, more power to him. It’s not like there was any real scenario where he was going to take the throne anyway. What was he in line, 6th? The only way he becomes king is if Trump tries to drone strike the Mayor of London and a bomb accidentally takes out all of London, including the royal family, and they have to bring him in from the Canadian bullpen.

Meet-A-Versary Weekend
To celebrate the day we met three years ago, and following day when we had our first date, Sweetpea and I decided to have a little stay-cation down in the ritzy part of town.

We stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn, at which we found an excellent rate. (Consider that the surrounding hotels, the Marriott Waterfront and the Four Seasons, want $320-$450 per night. No thanks!)

Our plan was to burn up some of the very generous gift cards we got as wedding presents. We had $200 for the rooftop restaurant at the Four Seasons, and $100 at Fleming’s Steakhouse.

For what it’s worth, we had a grand time. We had dinner at Flemings Saturday night, followed by brunch at the Four Seasons Sunday morning. It was quite a feast, in two parts. We didn’t even need to eat again on Sunday. (We did, but that’s beside the point. We didn’t have to. Just appetizers.)

Sunday afternoon, we saw "1917," which was a real masterpiece of film making. We totally recommend it.

But what I wanted to talk about was the hotel. As you may remember, this summer we stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn in Pittsburgh, and I was most unhappy with the design of the bathroom. I wondered if the design was institutional throughout the company and we’d have the same problems we had before.

I’m glad to say, they solved most of my issues in this location.

·        They had regular hinged doors to the bathroom.
·        The fixtures were not loose.
·        Water pressure in the shower was fine and the temperature got as hot as we wanted it.
·        They still had a large mirror opposite the glassed-in shower stall, but it was designed so that you were out of visual range when you were near the showerhead.
·        And even though the toilet faced the same mirror, you were again out of visual range, so you needn’t be tortured with the sight of the faces you make whilst trying to rock one out.

On the downside, they still didn’t have an exhaust fan. Yes, there was a continuous ventilation duct, and that was effective at air and mist filtration, but ignored the primary purpose of a hotel bathroom fan: sound cover. In the closed quarters of a hotel room, no one wants to hear what someone else is doing in there, and vice versa. Maybe if they had a switch to pipe in some traffic noise or something.

The other issue, and this was new, is that the shower stall leaked. There as about a half-inch gap on the hinge side of the door, which allowed water to escape onto the floor. And if the door wasn’t completely closed tight, water could get out the other side as well. There was no “latch” to seal the door, magnetic or otherwise.

You would think that the primary principle of designing a shower stall would be to keep the water inside. How can one intentionally leave a half-inch gap, right where the water bounces off you? Where’s Art Vandelay when you need him?

Do you know how I discovered this problem? I didn’t spot the water leaks when I was standing in there barefoot, getting dressed. That would have been too easy. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to go and I walked back in wearing dress socks and stepped into a big puddle.

Gah!  I hate that! So now it’s time to leave for the restaurant and I have soaking wet socks. (And it’s not like I had packed a whole rack of backup socks, either.)

But, Sweetpea came to the rescue before I could begin swearing in earnest. She said, “I’ll get the blow dryer.

Genius!

It kills me to say it, but I never would have thought of that. (Probably because I haven’t used a blow dryer in 40 years.) And as an even nicer benefit, it made the socks all warm and toasty. I decided I should blow dry my socks every winter day from now on.

So thank you, Sweetpea, for finding me, accepting me, loving me, marrying me, for richer and poorer, dry socks and wet. You’ll dry my socks, I’ll fold your underwear, and we’ll live happily ever after.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Jellyfish and a Case for Single Payer


I long for the days when I was indestructible. From ages 18 to 40, I almost never went to a doctor or got any kind of medical care whatsoever.

Then I hit 40 and the grand disintegration began. Turning 50 just hastened the onslaught. Heart problems, hives, torn shoulder ligaments, kidney stones; they all lined up to greet me. “Happy Birthday to you” and BAM, right over the cliff.

And now my eyes are giving me grief.

I started to notice something wrong in March when I went to get a new contact lens prescription. They said my prescription hadn’t changed, but I was having a hard time reading street signs. I toughed it out for a couple months until in October, I went back because something had to be wrong. I USED to be able to see with this lens strength, but not now.

My eye doc checked me again and came up with the same prescription. I said, “That can’t be right, because I can’t read a freakin’ street sign!

She checked my eyes again with some new gear and then said the dreaded word… cataracts.

That’s why I couldn’t read street signs; the beginnings of cataracts were fogging up my view. She altered my prescription a bit and gave me a referral for an Eye Surgery outfit. I didn’t figure it to be an emergency. I could still get around, (as long as I’m not navigating alone to somewhere I’ve never been), so I figured I’d table any talk about cataract surgery until at least spring break, or the summer when Sweetpea is out of school and can shuttle me around to the appointments.

Then in mid-December, I started seeing things in my right eye. That got my attention quickly. Now, by “seeing things,” I don’t mean ghosts or evil specters (as long as Fox “News” wasn’t on TV), I mean I was seeing spots… or globs… something from which I couldn’t shake loose.

I immediately called for that referral but found that they couldn’t even see me until January 6th. That meant I’d have to make do over the holidays.

To be helpful, I thought I’d draw out what I was seeing. Here, you can see the progression.

A sketch artist, I am not.

Eventually, I took to Web MD to look this up and found that I have a common occurrence called “floaters.” They said they take several forms:
They come in many different shapes:

·        Black or gray dots
·        Squiggly lines
·        Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and almost see-through
·        Cobwebs
·        Rings

I figure I have “rings,” with a side order of “cobwebs.” All that junk that’s attached to the large ring? When I look around, it sways, like a jellyfish in the current.

With great trepidation, I went off to my appointment last week. I went by myself. I knew they were going to dilate me but they also said driving yourself is optional. Some do, some don’t. I opted not to have to drag someone else to a three-hour appointment.

My trepidation was not only the drive but wondering what they were going to do to me. The idea of someone poking around in my eyeball with a needle or shooting laser beams into it totally skeeves me out, so believe me, I was fearing the worst.

“I need a better HMO!”

I saw several doctors and technicians there and after they got me dilated until I looked like Mexican child on a black velvet painting, they began peering in at the depths of my eye.

What they found was a “horseshoe retina peripheral tear.” It was located in the upper right portion of my eye and was probably what produced the floaters. The prognosis was for me to come back a few days later and have them seal it off with a laser.

[Cue dramatic sphincter tightening.]

But I put on my Big Boy Pants and went along with it. And while I was there, they talked to me about the cataract situation, which brings me to the broader point of the state of American health care.

They told me there are two types of cataract surgery and two types of new lenses they can put in.

The first surgery, I go in, lie down, the doctor works on me for about 10 minutes to break up the current lens, extract it, and insert a new one.

The second option, I get laser-guided prep first, to break up the lens while making smaller cuts in the eye. Produces less physical trauma to the eye and leaves the doctor with a 5-minute process to insert the lens. They said they would use this technique for every such surgery they do but for one problem: Insurance will only cover the first option.

As for the lenses, the first option is for a single-focus lens that will enable distance vision. I would need glasses or contacts to read a book, newspaper, computer monitor or phone. (Or in other words, about 85% of my waking hours.)

The second option is a multi-focal lens that would allow me to see distance plus anything around arm’s length away. Guess which one Insurance covers.

So, to get insurance coverage I need to choose a method that will cause more trauma to the eye, with higher risk, and put in a lens that will need nearly constant correction.

And I have the “good” employer-provided insurance coverage, the kind so many people are yelling about wanting to keep! Not me. Please, swap me out for a program that covers what I need, not what they consider the lowest, most basic level of treatment. I want a program where quality care isn’t trumped by cost savings. The bean-counters shouldn’t have such an outsized say in my medical care.

I know, I’m probably dreaming.

The person I spoke to wouldn’t engage regarding price. I wanted a ballpark… $2000? $5000? $10,000? Give me a clue, man! All he’d tell me is that they’d lay out all my options when it was time to address them. Naturally I imagine the worst. But I figure, if you’re going to get this kind of surgery done, it’s not worth skimping on results just so save a few (thousand) bucks. That’s my thought going in… we’ll see what I think when they lay out the prices and I can count up all the zeroes.

Anyway, I went in and got my laser repair done. It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I’d imagined. They didn’t even strap my head down. I told the doctor I was surprised they didn’t have my head restrained. He was like, “Just don’t move your head.”

I was mostly afraid of a sudden sneeze and having my nose cut off, which would totally spite my face.

And there was no big Dr. Evil Death Ray machine; it was more like a little hand-held circular light that he’d hold right up by my eye. When he pressed a button, it got brighter, that was it. After a number of zaps in a row, I could feel a little ache in my eyeball, but nothing too harsh.

Good thing they told me I wouldn’t be able to see out of it for a few minutes. I’d been running around the office bumping into things and yelling, “What did you do to me! I’m BLIIIIIIIIIIIND!”

But not to worry, the vision cleared in a few minutes, like they said.

I was in far more danger just driving home after dilation. It wasn’t so much the brightness… they gave me these ridiculous wrap-around sunglass strips that you basically roll out around your face, and then put your eyeglasses overtop. I think they do that just to laugh behind your back once you walk out the door looking like such a dork.

Going home after my first appointment, my problem was my glasses, which have multi-focal lenses that make the world look like a giant fishbowl. I swear I saw a giant treasure chest full of bubbles in the median. Add the unnatural darkness of the face-wrap shades, which made the world turn a sickly shade of green, yellow and brown, like a tornado is coming, and it’s a wonder I didn’t kill myself just walking to the car.

After the surgery, the trip home wasn’t as bad. It was cloudy and later in the day, so I didn’t need the shades. But driving on an interstate in a fishbowl-mobile is not recommended for the faint of heart.

So, in the end, they repaired the retinal tear and so far there doesn’t seem to be any problems coming from that. I have to go back in a couple weeks for inspection and I suspect we’ll talk about cataract options then.

The bad news: they said there’s not much they can do about the floater and my brain would get used to it.

Great. From now on, everything I see looks like it’s from a monster movie… The Jellyfish That Ate Baltimore.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Facebook Warriors


I guess we all know the big news from the weekend, that the Current Occupant* staged a drone assassination of the top Iranian general. He had Iraq unknowingly lure him out into the open to do it. Now Iran’s mad and threatening retaliation, Iraq’s mad and is evicting all US forces, our allies are mad because they received no notice (except Israel), Congress is mad because they got no notice either, except for a few stray Republicans. Various rich Mir-A-Lago elbow rubbers got notice, though, of “something big about to happen.”

So, no one’s happy. Except, Vlad. He’s very happy because instability in the Middle East and among Western allies is good for Russia. Does Trump ever do anything that’s not good for Russia?

Trump was desperate to retaliate over the Embassy bombing, lest it is marked as “another Benghazi,” so he had his generals draw up some options. According to the New York Times, the option to drone-bomb the general was only included to make the other options look reasonable and measured. Naturally, that’s the one Trump went for; a truly disproportionate response.

Trump and his people say they have intel that there was a serious plan afoot and their action eliminated it. That’s intel from our intelligence agencies… the ones they’ve spent the last two years defaming as agents of the “Deep State.” So, in other words, they’re all wrong when they said that there are dangerous connections between Trump and Russia, and wrong when they found that Trump obstructed justice ten different times, but they totally nailed this Iranian plan.

Does anyone wonder how taking out a guy who thinks up a plan eliminates the execution of that plan? I’m pretty sure the dead general told somebody about his big plan. His being dead won’t stop jack shit.

In today’s society, Republicans are duty-bound to defend whatever dumbass decision the president* makes, so not only were the talking heads bobbing in agreement on Fox “News,” but the troll farms were working overtime to provide jingoistic memes and the ditto-heads military fetishists were busy sending them around. I culled a few out for inspection.


The issue is not that we “defended Americans” against Iran after the embassy bombing, but the way we did it. You can “defend Americans” with sanctions or a nuclear bomb. There’s a lot of room to maneuver in between.

We assassinated a military leader of a foreign country in a non-wartime period, on the soil of a third country, after using false pretenses to gain their assistance. There are United Nations rules against that sort of thing. And even if there weren’t, it was basically kicking a hornet’s nest, without a plan for the fallout. (Other than bomb them some more.) We made a martyr out of this guy and moved Iranian citizens from pursuing rebellion against their government to uniting and rallying against us!

Also note that you could say Obama was “defending Americans” with every foreign policy move, but that didn’t quell any of his critics on the right, whether he was sending troops or bringing them home.

This meme, as usual with this crowd, takes an element of Democratic thought, turns it sideways, and criticizes that as if it was something we believe. No wonder they're confused.

 There’s a big difference between the two sets of actions. Obama was engaged in two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, both started by the previous Republican administration. The president doesn’t need Congressional approval to carry out any activity during a time of war. There was also the pursuit of ISIS, which was an extension of the previously sanctioned wars.

Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general did not take place in a time of war but appears to be the opening salvo of a new war, which indeed requires Congressional approval, or at minimum, notification. So yes, we Democrats do freak out about the president* unilaterally deciding to launch military action. As would Republicans if a Democrat did the same (or anything at all).

This meme is an apples to oranges comparison and cannot be taken seriously.


No one in their right mind is criticizing the soldiers called upon to execute military action in Iran (or Iraq, or wherever the hell they’re going.) And no one’s overlooking their service. But it’s easier to pretend that we are because then military fetishists can wrap themselves in the flag and pledge true love to the big guns of the US Military Services, which I’m sure gives them such a tingle way down in the nether regions.

What we DO criticize is sending our beloved troops into another war of choice meant solely as political gestures to save face and divert attention. People who really love the troops should balk at sending them back to the Middle East under such flimsy pretenses, at the behest of those who don’t know anything more about “service” than the number of pieces in a tea set.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Year End Leftovers


Yes, we’ve come to the end of another year. Throughout 2019, I’ve collected various items I thought I could use, either to debunk something or support a point I wanted to make. All go into my 2019 blogging folder. So now we’re on the cusp of 2020 and it’s time to create a new folder.

I try to start the year with a clean slate, so what do I do with all the memes and graphics I never used?

Meme dump.

And as you’ll see, all of them are supporting arguments I’ve made before. I’ve been pretty aggressive about debunking the BS memes, so I don’t have any of those left over. But I often forget I even saved these others, when I could have used them to pad support other posts.

Let me see if I can group these into some kind of order. (We are not anarchists here.)

Republicans
These totally fit.

I could also add a 6th: I’m not pathologically afraid of those who look different or come from a different culture than I do.


The ignorance of basic biology and other sciences, as exhibited by our conservative elected officials is staggering.

Republican Bullshit
The deficit: Part 1

Why let facts ruin an effective talking point? Republicans totally ignore the deficit once their guys are doing the spending. Before that? Worst thing since women got the vote. We must ensure we never let the GOP harp on the deficit ever again. They’ve shown by their actions that they don’t give a damn.


And we especially must not let them blame Democrats for “out of control” spending. They passed massive tax cuts targeting very few, and not one Republican demanded reciprocal cuts, like they do when it’s a spending item to benefit the non-rich.


As always, the Republican perspective depends on who’s in charge.

And speaking of selective perception…

Yes, abortion is bad… UNLESS a Republican’s wife, daughter, or mistress needs one. As I repeatedly say, if the pro-life movement was really about reducing the number of abortions, rather than controlling women, they would flood the market with free birth control options. But instead, they fight tooth and nail to make birth control harder to get.

And don’t forget, whatever they did, it’s not their fault.


Socialism

At this time in history, anything that benefits the masses at the expense of the rich is labeled as Socialism. And if any of the items referenced above were first being proposed today, they’d be against that too.

The anti-socialism bias we see now is completely fabricated and promoted by the rich people who run media outlets like Fox “News” and Sinclair Broadcasting, to turn people against proposals that would benefit them.


This is a self-debunking meme, taking standard arguments Republicans use, usually in terms of negatively characterizing what other people think, and supplying the opinion that those on the Left genuinely believe. The last thing they want is for us to sound reasonable.

Although instead of saying “I want my vote to count,” I’d say, “I want EVERYONE’S vote to count.” Of course, they’d just read that as an endorsement to let illegal aliens vote. But this is important because right now voter suppression is the most effective means they have to retain power. They know they are outnumbered; their only recourse is to rig the scale.


Republicans love to demonize food stamp programs and those who need it. Yes, the Family Values and Evangelicals for Jesus group just can’t stand it when someone gets something that they don’t. The symbol for modern Christianity shouldn’t be a cross, it should be someone with their hand out, saying, “But where’s mine?

Religion
What this Jefferson dude was saying was:

But if they acknowledged that truth, they couldn’t claim this was a “Christian Nation.”


The only “agenda” I see from LGBT people is trying to be treated the same way as anyone else. You know, “freedom” and all that. Republicans clamor a lot about “freedom,” but the freedom they want always seems to make others a little less free.


That one goes hand in hand with this one:


The Religious Right would love Shariah Law if you just replaced “Islam” with “Christianity.” 

For a group who demonizes countries like Iran, they sure look like they want to become just like them, but for one little tweak.


And I guarantee this is the genuine Carlin, not one of those hokey glurges usually miscredited to him. This bit is from one of his HBO specials. And he is not wrong. Republicans are 100% pro-baby, right up until it’s born. Then it’s just another mouth to feed looking for a handout.

2019

We’re not hearing too much about Epstein’s sex ring anymore, are we? For Republicans, it’s just more “evidence” that the Clintons have an operational, under-cover hit squad that’s been in cleaning up their messes for years.


This is the only way a sane person can interpret Trump’s* “perfect” conversation with the president of Ukraine. A “favor” in exchange for money. Which is a bribe. Which is written into the Constitution as a crime worthy of impeachment. Which in any rational environment, wouldn’t even be worthy of debate.

And now my favorite local (sort of) story of the year, from the Baltimore Sun:

It seems anyone can become a “Florida Man” simply by visiting Florida. But I give the guy props for unveiling a new courtroom strategy, “The Friggin’ Douche Defense.” I’m surprised Alan Dershowitz wasn’t involved.

Lastly, I’d like to thank you for visiting here this year. It’s been gratifying writing for you and your readership and responses help keep me going, when it would be so much easier to just hide away in a living room blanket fort and eat ice cream.

Please stay engaged this year, and by all means, whomever it is, vote for the Democratic nominee. Like him/her or not, they will be a drastic improvement over the current occupant. The only way to change anything is to show up and vote in every election, for every office. Tides turn from the bottom up. No matter who the “general” is, it’s the “soldiers” who get things done.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

Your pal, bluz