Monday, February 12, 2018

Memo Wars

Last week I wrote about the “Nunes Memo,” where the staff of Congressman Nunes went through the FBI surveillance requests on some Trump campaign staff and picked out all the parts they could spin into nefarious intentions, and wrote up a memo about them. President 45 decided to release it, over the national security objections of the whole of the federal law enforcement community.

Now the Democrats have created their own memo that provides information that was omitted from the Nunes memo, that counters the assertions contained therein.

And to the surprise of exactly no one, Trump decided not to authorize the release of that memo, due to national security concerns.

Hmmmm. I bet you that each of those national security concerns coincides with points that debunk charges from the Nunes memo. To release a redacted memo may basically neuter the entire response.  Which is exactly what the Republicans intend. Remember, Trump thinks the Nunes memo exonerates him. We’ll see how much valuable deflection is left after these redactions. I’m not optimistic.

You have to take that with a grain of salt. He thinks that the sun coming up in the east exonerates him. You can’t take that stuff at face value. It’s just one more example of yelling a lie over and over until it becomes accepted as the truth. The Republicans are masters at it, Trump in particular.

Speaking of repeated lies, let’s look at some more bogus Republican memes captured from the wild.
Let’s go line by line:

“If we get nuked, it’ll be by…

Right off the bat… regardless how who nukes us, these SOBs know who to blame. Of course, that’s a given. When has a modern Republican taken the blame for anything? Just look how Sean Hannity is furiously tap-dancing to credit Trump with the flush stock market and Obama for the recent downturn. They’re shameless.

“Missiles built with technology given to China by Bill Clinton…

China has had nuclear tech since the 60s. They could have blown us up any time they wanted ever since.

“Funded by Iran with money Obama gave them…

So is it the Chinese engineering our demise or is it Iran? Doesn’t matter when you’re smearing with a broad brush. And not to pick nits, we didn’t give Iran any money; we unfroze their assets, giving them access to their own money, in return for standing down on weaponizing nuclear energy and permitting inspections, (which is the opposite of arming them).

“With warheads developed from uranium sold to Russia by Hillary.”

Complete bullshit. This has already been thoroughly debunked. Hillary did not have control of this uranium and her state department was one of nine departments that provided approval. (There are more areas of exoneration here, but I don’t want to dwell. You can click on the Snopes link above, for more details.) The uranium deal, as it applies to some nefarious plot between Russia and Hillary, is a complete fabrication. Not that you can tell by watching Fox “News” though.

“But Trump is the traitor? Got it.”

Finally, something based in fact. Trump is the only one who benefitted from Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump is the one who defers to Russia and Putin at every turn. Trump is the one desperately scrambling to try to derail the special prosecutor’s investigation into his Russia ties. Two of his staff have already pled guilty to federal offenses as it pertains to having ties to Russia, and more are on the way.

You know that saying that “if it looks like a duck and waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck?” Our president is one duck-tailed, waddling, quacking MFer.

The second half of this should say, “except all the stuff we made up for political purposes.”

Fast and Furious scandal: A police op gone wrong, no doubt. It was the same tactic police forces use all over the country… follow the guns/drugs from the street level dealers up to the bigwigs and take down the whole organization.  Unfortunately, this one went balls-up when they lost track of the guns sent to the cartels.  Oops. 

While a total embarrassment for law enforcement, I don’t see how it can be used to smear the presidency. Unless it’s a Democrat, because obviously, nothing that’s gone wrong in the country since January of 2017 has been Trump’s fault. Just ask him…

Uranium One Deal: See above. A complete fabrication promoted for political purposes.

Benghazi scandal: Ditto. It certainly wasn’t a high point, but not once have I ever heard a reason, convincing or otherwise, why this embassy attack was any different than the 11 fatal embassy attacks that took place during the Bush administration. Multiple congressional investigations uncovered not a single crime or anything that could even be charged. But because Hillary was seen as likely to run for president, the GOP smear campaign came out in force, with the objective of getting the word “scandal” and her name in the same sentence, over and over.

IRS Targeting scandal: More BS. IT was shown that the IRS went after liberal organizations too, for not being eligible for tax exemptions. And the ones Republicans always point to were based out of a single office in Cincinnati.

It’s kind of like those FBI texts. Just because a couple of employees might have partisan leanings doesn’t contaminate the entire organization. Nor does it qualify as a presidential scandal.

NSA Spying scandal: I’m not sure what they even mean with this one. The NSA was let loose to spy on Americans by the PATRIOT Act, in the wake of 9/11. There has been no political will on either side to put the genie back in the bottle since then.

Or they might mean the spying on Trump’s campaign people. Which is still BS. There was plenty of evidence pointing to shady behavior involving the Russians. And it turned out to be a valid concern. Look at the guilty pleas.

Also, in some instances, they weren’t surveilling Trump or his people; they were surveilling the Russians. And guess who happens to get caught on tape talking with them? Trump and his people. That’s just a case of the fly walking into the web.

Should I continue? No, you’re just embarrassing yourself.

The Obama administration was free of meaningful scandal, once you eliminate all the fake stuff, smears, political maneuvering and wishful thinking. There was no womanizing, no shady business deals, no tax evasion, no selling influence for profit, no un-presidential tweeting, no insulting or undermining our allies… The current guy steps on his own dick three times a week and twice on Sunday. There is no valid comparison.
  
This meme tells me the Republicans are now believing their own bullshit.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Nunes Memo is Just Another Con Job

This “Nunes Memo” is the latest in a line of Republican con jobs being actively pushed by the GOP and their media propaganda machines. They make it seem like it’s a lot more important than it really is.

In a nutshell, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the FBI warrants requesting surveillance on a couple of Trump campaign operatives. Then Rep. Nunes’s staffers went through it and picked out all the things they could spin as FBI bias, corruption, or just plain tawdriness, leaving out context or anything that would legitimize the behavior they were using to cry foul.

Basically, they were doing to this memo what those crooks were doing with Planned Parenthood “sting” videos.

By using this dishonest methodology, you could argue that the Batman movies were about nothing but a cross-dresser trying to bring capes back into fashion. You’d do that by leaving out the background of Bruce Wayne, the reasons why he dresses as a bat, and the greater problem of a crime-riddled city, run by crime figures with the first name of “The.”

The Nunes memo is a sham, a political hit piece designed to provide cover for the president to fire Rod Rosenstein, who, not coincidentally, is the only one who can fire Robert Mueller. And the only reason anyone wants to fire Robert Mueller is that they are terrified of what he is likely to find. (Or has already found.) The GOP doesn’t want the gravy train to come to an end so they’re mortgaging their alleged values and ethics so to ensure that criminals who are helpful to big business will remain in power.

And the scary thing about Mueller is that his process does not require the cooperation of Congress. He’s after criminal activity and federal or state charges.

Congress would prefer to conduct their own investigation, so that the Republicans who run it can, with their heads placed somewhere from which there is no clear view other than through their navels, declare that there was no wrong-doing, claim victory and kibosh the whole affair. Obviously, the GOP Congress is not going to file impeachment charges against 45 no matter what he does.

But Mueller can derail the whole thing, so they’re trying to derail him first. Doesn’t that make you proud to be an American? That’s our government in action… at least when it’s run by Republicans.

It’s laughable that they are trying to claim the investigation is being run by left-leaning ideologues…
Yep, just a bunch of hippie radicals, huh?

This is one more symptom of the blight that is Fox “News;” emboldening our elected officials to lie, repeatedly, right to our collective face. Yell a lie enough times and it becomes the truth, especially to people who want to believe it.

Debunkery
While I’m all worked up, I might as well take a look at a couple recent conservative memes I harvested from Facebook.
Dear Republicans,
We will never forget your propensity to wrap yourself in the flag and military at every chance you get, especially when it gets you out of addressing any actual problems. Other people seem able to maintain more than one idea at a time. At this particular time, immigration is dominating the news cycles so a point about immigration is to be made.

Also, please explain how you have so many rules that only Democrats have to follow. Is there some kind of veteran quota? Is there a particular number of vets we have to showcase before we’re allowed to address another issue? I haven’t seen this kind of outrage since President Obama wore a tan suit jacket.

And by the way, what has this administration done for veterans, besides reducing their access to health care? You guys complained to high heaven about the VA under Obama. What have you done to fix the problems you were yelling about?

You love to position every social issue as a zero-sum game regarding veterans.

·        How can we afford welfare when there are homeless veterans?
·        How can we afford SNAP when there are homeless veterans?
·        Why would we pay for birth control when there are homeless veterans?
·        How can we take in war refugees when there are homeless veterans?

OK, you’ve been in charge for a year, with complete authority. What have you done for homeless veterans? Or any veterans? I think you just like using veterans to browbeat others into not helping someone else… usually a “brown” someone else.

All we see is lip service… a whole lot of flag lapel pins and not a hell of a lot of anything that would help. Like in the new budget proposals… the military gets a fuck-ton more money. How much of it goes to pay for the troops? (Answer: Jack Shit, compared to the money spent with defense contractors.)

You are more interested in using the military or homeless vets as a cultural bludgeon rather than solving their problems, so, forgive me if our shallow optics diverge from yours. Talk to me when you have a solution. Until then, go fuck yourselves.
Signed,
We the People Without a Military Fetish

More Debunkery

Are you freaking kidding me. You WISH all we had was Trump hate. But first, let’s look at your platform/alleged accomplishments.

·        Border security. Borders are reasonably secure. Illegal immigration was down before Trump even ran for office. Walls are the least effective ways of securing a border. Most illegal immigrants flew here on a valid visa and then over-stayed. You’re proposing a $25 billion vanity project for the country’s leading narcissist. (I bet you could buy a lot of housing for homeless vets with that dough.)
·        Boom economy. Are you kidding? Only for major stockholders. The rest of us? Meh. This big stock bubble (it’s been solid for a while, but plummeting now, as I write,) only helps if you have major stock holdings. Are YOU rich now? Can YOU take it easy because of your flush stock portfolio? I can’t. Because the Trump economy only benefits those who can afford to plunk millions into the market. Big business is booming. The rest of us wait for the crumbs.
·        Better Trade Deals. Who’s he gonna deal with? Everyone hates us. He’s alienated all of our allies, none of whom are eager to do us any favors any longer, nor give us any better deals. Why don’t we ask the former employees at Carrier, who just lost their jobs to Mexico after one of Trump’s highly self-publicized “deals.”
·        Infrastructure. It’s falling apart, just like it was when the Republicans bottled up all infrastructure bills during the prior administration. Reducing the deficit was too important to spend money on fixing our crumbling roads, rails, and bridges. But not too important to refuse the massive tax giveaway to big business, though, right? That’s a demonstration of Republican priorities right there. They should be embarrassed to even list it here.  Where is the Republican infrastructure bill? (Hint: The Wall doesn’t count.)

You think all we have is hating Trump? Here’s what Democrats want to actually run on:

·        Creating workable health care system (again).
·        Securing reproductive rights, especially the right for women to reproduce whenever they damned well want to. Reinstating insurance coverage for birth control is a part of it.
·        Instituting a sane, non-bigoted immigration policy.
·        Doing something about automatic and semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips, including background checks referenced against the terrorist watch list.
·        Safeguarding same-sex marriage, or in other words, Equal Rights for All.
·        Repairing the separation of church and state.
·        Voting safeguards. The GOP is reinstituting the poll tax. We need to make it easier for everyone to vote, not harder for one party’s opponents. This is not Russia. (Yet.  They’re working on it.) Address racial and political gerrymandering.
·        Overturning Citizens United, which begat the whole mess we have now, where anyone with enough money can buy their own politicians right off the rack, without anyone being the wiser. And appointing judges who aren’t in the pocket of big business or the religious right.
·        Instituting a tax structure that gives the breaks to the lower and middle classes, and penalizes companies for moving businesses (and profits) offshore. End the loopholes. We will spend the money on goods and services and “trickle UP” to Corporate America, rather than the other way around. Let the corporate tax breaks sunset and let the rest of us keep ours. That’s what moves an economy.
·        Using real science when formulating policy, rather than political expediency, where the end is a done deal and the “science” is designed from the start to back it up.
·        Funding and strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and ensure its independence.
·        Ensuring Net Neutrality. Internet service in 2018 is a public utility, to be treated as such.
·        Raising fuel efficiency standards.
·        Investing in wind and solar power. Fossil fuels exist in a finite amount and they’re damaging the habitability of this planet. It’s time to recognize that and act accordingly.

I could go on. There are tons of issues the Democrats can promote. Hating Trump is just a bonus.

In fact, he’s not much different than any of the rest of them. Pence, Ryan, McConnell, none of them would differ from the policies of the Trump Administration if he were gone. If the Republicans are to remain in charge, I’d prefer that Trump remain. The other guys would accomplish more of their destructive agenda without sitting on their ball-sacks every week. The fact that Dolt 45 is incompetent is the only thing that stops them from activating a full-on sci-fi movie dystopia in the here and now.

Without Trump, our only hope would be Jennifer Lawrence.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Thoughts on Fire and Fury


Last week I finished up reading Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff (iBooks version).
People have been quoting it and talking about it ever since it was published, but I wanted to join in, BUT I also wanted to finish it first, which I’m not sure all the pundits and commentators actually did.

First reaction?
HOLY SHIT-TUH

The book paints a picture of the most grossly unqualified, unprofessional, and unethical White House this country has ever seen. It’s almost enough to make me believe in God because it can only be because of Divine Providence that the government hasn’t collapsed yet.

Of course, that’s only if it’s all true.  But here’s the thing… even if it’s only, say, 15% true, nothing changes in the seriousness of degree in which this country is screwed. The White House is that messed up. (Or at least it was, during the time frame covered by the book. It ended shortly after John Kelly took over as Chief of Staff.)

First, let’s address a couple of the negative points about the book, and get them out of the way.

It’s not exactly an elegantly-written book. The author uses a lot of unnecessarily big words as if to say, “Look at my dazzling vocabulary! Aren’t I smart?” He rarely passes up a $20 word when a $1.50 word is available.

It’s also plain to see which stories are likeliest to be true; those are the ones where specific people are quoted. Other stores, the author says, are cobbled together from multiple sources who sometimes vary in their recollections, which really isn’t surprising with a White House who lies so frequently and casually, when pursuing their own ends.

Where he has conflicting versions, he said he went with the ones provided by those whose stories were most often corroborated by others or rang the truest based on what he’d seen himself.

Unfortunately, that leaves wiggle room for critics who have been nitpicking over individual snippets… Things like, “this event didn’t happen on this date, it happened that date,” or “so-and-so didn’t say that before an event, he said it later.”

None of these criticisms take away from the basic thrust of the book though, which is that this administration did not expect to win, did not want to win, carried on their ethically corrupt business practices because they did not expect to win and was fully unprepared to govern once elected. Plus, they wouldn’t listen to those who knew how to navigate the Executive Branch.

Donald Trump refused to put any money into his own campaign, even at the behest of party leaders. He couldn’t, for the life of him, see why anyone would dump money into a losing campaign.

No one from his inner circle had any idea of the scope of the job it took to hire all the appointees necessary to run the government.

There was zero order or hierarchy in the West Wing. Anyone and everyone could pop by the Oval and see the President. Trump wouldn’t institute any structure because he liked to have an audience around at all times and liked having people compete for his attention and favor.

That was another major point of the book: the ever-warring factions of the White House. You had Steve Bannon on one side and young power-couple Jared and Ivanka on the other. (Or as the author usually called them, “Jarvanka,” after hearing the term from Bannon.) Chief of Staff, (in-name-only) Reince Priebus began as united with Jarvanka before migrating over Bannon’s side.

Both blocks were preoccupied with promoting themselves and making the others look bad, through leaks to the press and direct bad-mouthing to the President. Remember how Trump was always complaining about leaks? His own inner circle was providing the juiciest ones.

Bannon is quoted directly and extensively in the book. It was obvious that he gave the author plenty of time and energy. It’s no wonder he was sent packing. He had opinions on everyone (usually derisive ones) and they hit hard.

It’s really a wonder he survived as long as he did. I mean, he criticized Ivanka directly to her face, in front of her father. If someone did that to a hypothetical daughter of mine, there would be a significant problem. But Trump? He seemed to like it. He told her she’d have to toughen up for Washington.

Bannon was especially gleeful in deriding Jarvanka’s bad advice. Firing Comey? Their idea. Hiring Scaramucci? Their idea. And then while on Air Force One, Trump writing the alternative account of the infamous Russia meeting, to absolve Jared and Don Jr.? That’s obstruction, right there.

All parties, (especially Bannon), manipulated the President like he was a child. During times Bannon was on the outs, he’d plant his ideas in Breitbart, where he knew Fox News would pick them up and run. Then Trump would see them on Fox and pick it up himself. (And take credit.)

But then they had to take such steps. Trump doesn’t read anything, doesn’t listen to anyone, and will fill up a meeting with his own repetitive stories. To Trump, if he doesn’t already know it, it’s not worth knowing. As far as being uninquisitive, Trump makes W. Bush look like a Rhodes scholar.

It would all make a great comedy if it weren’t so terrifying.

Anyway, there’s far more meat to the book than I can cover here. I do recommend it as a good read, and while there may be individual nits to pick, I believe the overall thrust the author is trying to make…

The inmates are running the governmental asylum.

If we’re lucky, Robert Mueller will thin the herd. But unfortunately, that will just leave more seasoned hands to prop up big business, rob the electorate and eviscerate the scientific method.

It’s only the gross incompetence of this Administration that keeps it from inflicting even more damage.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Debunkery - The Racist Edition

You can tell how badly the year is going by the quality of the conservative memes on Facebook. Lately, they’ve been getting desperate.

Did you see the ones comparing DACA kids to the offspring of bank robbers? I should have grabbed it when I saw it but the logic went like, “If a guy robs a bank, do we let the kids keep the money?” Similarly, “If a guy gets caught sneaking his family into Disneyland, do the kids get to stay?

The concise response it, “No, but we don’t then send them to a country of which they’re barely familiar, either.”

There are several important points to remember about DACA kids, who had no choice in their illegally entering America:
·        They have to jump through a number of hoops just to qualify, like staying in school, holding a job, not being arrested.
·        They have to re-apply every year and pay a $500 fee.
·        Like any other “illegal immigrants,” if they get a paycheck, they pay taxes. PLUS, they do not qualify for financial assistance like SNAP or welfare.

These are the kind of immigrants we want here, educated, skilled, law-abiding non-terrorists. To pursue kicking these people out of the country is a purge of brown people, under the star-spangled pretext of “law and order.”

Is that really what a civilized, God-fearing Christian country does?

(We’re not actually a God-fearing Christian country, but conservatives claim we are.)
Score “1” for that Jefferson dude.


It’s also funny to see all these people wanting to crack down on immigration, both legal and illegal, furiously tap-dancing to avoid being seen as racists.
No, you’re a racist bigot for wanting to crack down on immigrants from Haiti, Africa, and other “S-hole countries” (meaning black) but roll out the red carpet for those from Norway (meaning: white). As if we have anything worth offering to Norwegians but geography and climate that don’t involve glaciers.

If you support the policies and positions of a man whose policies and positions garner enthusiastic support from Nazis, skinheads and the KKK, then take a good hard look at yourself, because you support racism. By default, you’re racist, no matter what you think about Ashley Judd.

Blaming it all on smug celebrities is just dodging an uncomfortable point.

Speaking of the “Shithole country” controversy, did you see the comparison memes about that one?

I found this one by searching, but the first one I saw on FaceBook tried to claim that the media never reported it. And that was funny because when looking up the quote, the first things you see are various news headlines on the story, which by definition, is the opposite of not reporting a story.

But the real debunking is in the context. It’s the logical fallacy of false equivalency. The only thing the two statements have in common is the shit.

Obama was talking about the state of the country, in which there were protests, riots, and the overthrow of the government. (I’m unsure whether the quote occurred before or after our embassy was attacked.) He was talking about a specific situation in time (which was the very essence of a Shit-show) and not making a general statement.

What President 45 was doing was painting an entire region, if not continent, with a broad, derogatory brush. The word “shit” was never the issue; it was the simmering ignorance and bigotry that lay beneath.

The fact is, Republicans and conservatives have an abysmal record on racism and civil rights.

All Republicans can point to is Abraham Lincoln, which, while historically accurate, is quite misleading in current context. Southern Democrats turned Republican en masse in 1964, following the Civil Rights Act. That’s a veritable stampede from the party of Lincoln. Modern Republicans don’t get to claim the legacy of Lincoln when 50 years ago, they actively abandoned all he for which he stood.

But that’s not the last time Republicans get bit by things they’ve said and done in the past.

I guess I’m a little late with this one though… Just heard that the shutdown is ending after a mere three days. Chuck Schumer seems to be taking the heat/blame/ridicule, but Chuck is a pragmatist. The Republicans have a better media ground game than he does, and a lot of red-state Democrats were feeling the heat of creeping blame.

So he extracted a promise that the Republicans would bring up DACA and immigration before this temporary funding expires. If the GOP reneges, that will give Schumer a free pass to jam up funding again while assigning blame to Republicans.

I have mixed feelings about it. I’m disappointed the Democrats didn’t get anything tangible (yet) for their cooperation, but I’m glad the shutdown is over. A lot of people get hurt when the paychecks stop coming and the wheels stop turning. And we have to face it; we’re the minority party so there’s only so much leverage to be used. We did have them in a spot because they needed some Democratic votes to pass the funding bill.

I say as long as that promise is good and they bargain in good faith, it’s a win.

Not that I’m optimistic though. It’s not like Republicans would never say one thing and do another…

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Best Year of my Life

I’m sorry I didn’t have a post up yesterday on my usual Monday night; I was still celebrating the long weekend with Sweetpea. And we had more than MLK Day to celebrate… Yesterday was the first anniversary of the day we met.

I was in my favorite sports bar watching a Steelers playoff game when she came over to my side of the bar and chatted me up. We went out for lunch the next day and we’ve been together ever since.

From there, it’s been an amazing year, probably the best of my adult life. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy for so many days in a row. And even when I’m alone at my place, it’s amazing to me when think that I love someone out there and she loves me too.

I’d spent the last three years in a decent place. I wasn’t miserable, I was content. I had the means so I went to ballgames or the movies and just did whatever I felt like doing. Alone. Which was fine… I can make my own fun. I try to have fun wherever I go.

But now this year? Whole different thing. I don’t see as many ballgames, but that’s OK. In 2016 I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a personal record. It was something to do that I enjoyed. In 2017, I saw 10, half of them with Sweetpea. And that was enough because now I had other things to do and someone to do them with.
Here is this year’s Ticket Collage. 10 Orioles games, 1 Ravens game, 1 Penguins game, 6 movies and a couple odds and end.

Over the last year, I don’t think we’ve had one fight. We’ve had some minor disagreements from time to time, but they never blow up into something larger, which I credit to her. After all, she’s an elementary school teacher so she’s been trained in how to handle children (of all sizes).

On occasions where I’ve said something particularly stupid, she never mentions it at the time. Then the next day or next time we’re together, she’ll tell me what was bothering her and it will be something meaningful, not just picking nits.  I’ll admit/retract/apologize as the situation calls for, and learn from it. No stewing, no escalation, no fight. It’s beautiful.

I would say that it works the same the other way around, but she’s never given me reason to be mad at her. But I’d like to think I’d handle it like she does.

Most of the time, our mutual minor screw-ups just become running jokes.

Here in the Age of Texting, we send each other messages constantly, at minimum a “good morning” and good night.” And with texting comes typos. The good ones, we just work into our everyday vocabulary.

For example, “vaby” and “fumny” get regular recurrence. Like I’ll say, “Hiya doin’ vaby?” To which she’ll respond, “Just fine, fumny man.”

Then there’s the stuff she says when she’s asleep.

See, her dog comes in at least once per night, to be let out. He’ll come sit by her side of the bed and let out a continuing sequence of whines and groans. She hears him and gets up, but she isn’t always awake. She’ll talk to him in a barrage of jibberish, her “dog” dialect, and occasionally recognizable words.

Last weekend, she told the dog that the “1st graders don’t know anything.” I’m sure he was puzzled to hear that.

Several months ago, I woke up to see her standing beside the bed and slapping down on the mattress. I asked her what she was doing. She said, “Making pee bread.”

Neither of us has any idea what that was all about, but now I always make sure I know where my toast is coming from.

But my point is that rather than her getting defensive about it, we laugh and bring it up at the funniest opportunities. We just roll with it.

I should probably expand on what I meant earlier by “her ‘dog’ dialect.” She and her siblings have this strange dialect they use when they’re talking to or about their dogs. It was something their mother used to do. To me, it sounds kind of like a coon-ass Cajun accent. But at least I know why the dog doesn’t listen to me. I don’t have the dialect down yet.

It occurred to me last weekend, as we were celebrating our first big landmark, that this could actually be part of some elaborate prank concocted by her and a girlfriend. I’m thinking something out of the movie “Trading Places,” where her friend bets her she can’t bewitch that poor sap of a Steelers fan over there and keep him around for a full year.

All weekend, I kept asking her what time we actually met so I would know when it was a year, exactly. I told her I expected that any minute, her oldest girlfriend would appear, proclaim that Sweetpea won the bet and hand her a dollar.
But no one ever showed up, so I could only assume that the term of the bet is longer.  I told her that my last request was that she at least clue me in before I sell my washer and dryer.

We plan to move in together this summer after she’s out of school. This will be the first time I’ve moved into someone else’s house so it will be an adjustment. I haven’t had a day-in-day-out roommate since the 90s, when I was married, so the prospect is a bit daunting. And just getting all of my stuff in there… well, have you ever heard of stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag? That’ll be us. I’d better start getting rid of some shit…

But I haven’t been this freakin’ happy since I can remember, so I have no doubts that we can make it work. If I blow it with this sweet, beautiful, tiny little teacher, I might as well just hang it up.

I’m optimistic about it though. We’re past the “every occasion we’re together is a date” portion of the relationship and are getting close to day-to-day life. We’ve traveled, had vacations, spent almost two weeks together over the holidays, and there hasn’t been anything to worry about. We see each other a minimum of 3 days a week. I can’t believe she’s not sick of me.

I’m happy, with a happiness that comes from knowing I’m with the one I’m supposed to be with; the Love of my Life. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Happy anniversary, Sweetpea. I love you, vaby.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Debunkery – The Edition for Those Who Don’t Get It

I really just wanted to debunk some Facebook memes today but have you heard about that book that came out?

Man, that’s all anyone’s talking about for the last week and for good reason. This “Fire and Fury” book, by Michael Wolff, illustrates how unfit to hold office our current president is. And it doesn’t just make charges, it tells you how and why, with loads of details.

Obviously, the credibility of the writer went straight into the GOP crosshairs. I mean, of course it did… that’s Play #1 in the Republican Playbook: call whatever you don’t like a lie.

The biggest problem here is that the president is the most dishonest executive officer this country has ever seen. With well over a two thousand documented and disproven falsehoods uttered in office, how can anyone truly believe anything he says? Only the True Believers, that’s for sure; them and those who just don’t care as long as they get their taxes cut and regulations removed.

It’s also funny seeing them criticize the lack of attributed quotes. Yeah, big mystery why there’s not more of those in the book. Did you see what happened to Bannon? Trump turned on him like a dog who’s found a spot to lie down. And they wonder why more people didn’t speak on the record?
Just because a quote is off the record doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact, I think it’s MORE likely to be true. No one but a moron would put his name on a damaging quote about this administration. Just ask Sloppy Steve. Hell, even his own brain-dead following turned on his ass, after he criticized their fearless “leader.” They don’t want anything getting in the way of President 45 making America great again for all those poor, persecuted white men. They’ve suffered enough, thank you very much.

Anyway, because the major sellers are out of the book already, I’m going to look into getting the e-book. But on the other hand, I’m almost afraid to hear any more… My faith in the innate goodness of people is already at rock bottom. How much lower can it possibly get?

No, I don’t think any real changes are going to come from the book’s revelations. Supporters will just claim it’s all a lie and continue towing the conservative line. People really don’t want to see this Emperor without clothes. But it does amuse me how pissed off the president got about it. All he wants is praise and adulation from the masses, and the little that comes in is being drowned out by all the laughter at his incompetence and that of his enablers.

Debunkery
In other news, Facebook teed up another one for me last week. I saw this posted on the news feed of a conservative friend:
I know why the writer doesn’t get it.

It’s because he is not smart enough to know when he’s being lied to. He apparently believes everything that emanates from Fox “News” without a second thought.

So here are some second thoughts, bit by bit.

What kind of monster would “lower our taxes…”

He’s not. He’s distributing 83% of this tax cut to the richest 1% of the population and leaving the rest to the remainder of the country. And when you look at the deductions that are being removed, millions of lower to middle-class families will be paying more. And THEN, what little benefit the middle class is getting will disappear in 6 years, because they were made to be temporary. So no, unless the meme was created by a Koch brother or one of his rich allies, there is no tax cut.

“…secure our borders…”

Secure our borders from what? A horde of gardeners and farm workers? The wall is the worst way to actually prevent illegal immigration, not least of it is because they’ll never seal off the river that runs the length of Texas’s border.  There is no wall that people can’t go over or around. Hell, it happens right now with the drug cartels. They build tunnels worthy of our interstates and are probably in better shape, what with our lack of infrastructure spending.

Putting up a wall makes us no better than cold war East Germany. You want to deter illegal immigration, fine companies that hire them. No jobs, no immigration.

“…protect the citizens…”

From what? The tens of thousands of gun deaths that happen in America each year? No, they’re more interested in trumpeting when some immigrant commits a crime. Doesn’t matter that immigrants to America, even the illegal ones, are statistically less likely to commit a crime than native-born Americans. What’s the message there? That we will only stand to be killed by our own kind?

“…create jobs…”

A complete myth. Tax cuts at the top do not produce more jobs at the bottom. It didn’t happen when Reagan did it, nor when Bush did it, nor when Kansas or Wisconsin did it. Corporations pay out their newfound dough to their shareholders and executives. They only hire more workers when there is consumer demand. So the jobs don’t come until the lower and middle classes are flourishing. You want to see that happen? Make the big tax cut package 83% to the lower and middle classes and give the rich the 17%.

“…raise the GDP…”

Same as the jobs thing… production and consumption don’t go up until the 98% is buying. This president hasn’t done jack for the working class.

“…take down DC corruption…”

Are you serious? This Administration is gorging itself on the public trough. Trump, his family, his cronies of industry, they’re all gutting safety and health regulations so to make the least impact to corporate bottom lines. Our safety and health don’t factor into it one bit. The family business is getting fat on the President’s trips to his own resorts alone, let alone all the foreign business coming their way from those states who want to curry favor. 

And when the president stays at his own resort, remember it’s not just him; it’s the entire presidential entourage. Everyone from Secret Service to aides and handlers needs to be put up and fed. Think that’s free?

“…destroy ISIS…”

I’ll give that he’s made progress. But ISIS comes from an idea, one that can’t be bombed into submission. Radical Islam will abate when their lives become better. And if this Administration can’t do anything for the masses in this country, they’re certainly not doing anything for a bunch of foreigners.

“…put America first…”

Putting America first basically entails reneging on our treaties and turning on allies. On the major issues of the day, we no longer have voice or influence because our leader is too busy watching out for himself. Isolation doesn’t work. Show me one isolationist country who’s thriving.

There aren’t any. This is a global economy, now more than ever. Living in a bubble won’t do anything more than suffocate us.

“…fix the healthcare abomination…”

You mean remove healthcare from millions of people? Done. Better hope you stay healthy because the entire system is about to come crashing down, without a single idea on how to replace it. When only sick people buy insurance, insurance companies can’t stay in business without raising rates for everybody, through the roof. What we have now is not a health care policy, it’s a crime against humanity.

“…& strengthen the military.”

Are you fucking kidding me? We have the strongest military in the world and spend more on it than the next top 12 countries combined. We need to worry less about building our arsenal and more about finding ways not to have to use it. But with the systematic neutering of the State Department, that’s not going to happen. You know that story about when the only tool you have is a hammer? That’s us, looking to nail every political problem we encounter across the globe.

“I just don’t get it.”

Yes, it’s obvious that you don’t get it. I attribute that to a raging lack of education and critical thinking skills. You’re too busy parroting Republican talking points to give a thought about what you’re spouting and how you’re really being affected, as your quality of life swirls down the toilet.

Your ignorance is taking the rest of us down with you.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ice Burgh

Happy New Year to you. I wish we could be celebrating under better circumstances, but at least we’re still out here thrashing around!

Today was my first day back at work since 12/21, so in my mind, I’m still day-drinking and watching sports. Only my butt was back at my desk at work. Eventually, my heart and mind will follow.

So what did I do with my 11 days off? I can put it into three categories:

  • Christmas Prep
  • Christmas
  • Pittsburgh

Like I mentioned in the last post, Sweetpea throws a big Christmas breakfast every year, in which in addition to her family, she invites anyone else who doesn’t have anywhere else to go or anything to do. (Translation: Singles and Jews.)

So Saturday and Sunday were spent getting the place ready for the crowd, except for the part on Sunday where I went to the sports bar to watch football. Charitably speaking, I was “getting out of her hair.”

Because of the Christmas morning craziness, we had “our” Christmas and exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. My favorite gift? This shirt: 
 That’s one of my favorite quotes and I don’t even watch Game of Thrones!

The biggest challenge for Christmas Breakfast, (aside from keeping the dog from barking his head off in desperate attempts to get people to play ball with him outside), (in the COLD!), was getting everyone back out of the place so that we could make a break for my brother’s house and watch the Steelers game at 4:30.

We almost pulled it off, but about an hour before we wanted to leave, Sweetpea’s old 10th-grade teacher showed up, after everyone was gone and all the food was put away. So he supervised the cleanup we were doing, talked sports with me, and we literally walked him out the door as we were on our way out ourselves.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, the Steelers won handily, so we didn’t have to live and die on every snap. For a change…

On Tuesday, the day after Christmas, we headed for Pittsburgh. I’ve wanted to show her around the Burgh ever since we met. Because we were busy this summer and she won’t get much of a spring break, we decided to use Christmas break for the trip.

On the plus side, the timing was perfect for our schedules. On the minus side, on the day I wanted to show her around the town, it was 11 freakin’ degrees out!

Anyway, we checked into the gorgeous Omni William Penn, got settled in, and then headed out to the burbs to see my family. Sweetpea got to meet 2 aunts, 1 uncle, 3 cousins, and 2 cousins-once-removed (or whatever you call your cousin’s kids).

 As always, we enjoyed good stories, good drinks, and amazing food. Aunt Mary laid out some manicotti to die for!
In fact, she had me email my dad some pictures of the food, just to rub it in that he wasn’t getting any. Yes, wise-assery is a family trait.

We also got to hang out with another special girl, Aunt Mary’s sweet little Samantha.
The Queen, on her throne.

The picture doesn’t really give any perspective, but Sweetpea’s dog probably has 80 pounds on her. This dog could sit in the palm of my hand (if she kept very still).

Somehow, we managed to escape before falling into a food coma, and made our way back to the Penn, to rest up for our Big Day.

I’d been watching the weather for the prior week so I knew it was going to be cold; it was only a matter of degree. (Heh) I was hoping the forecast would change, and it did. It kept getting colder. I had a few specific things I wanted to show off, so I planned a more direct route than I might have otherwise.

So, we knew it would be cold and we dressed accordingly. But still… we stepped outside and WHAM. It was like walking into the side of an igloo. Of course, it depended on where you were. There were parts when we were in the shade and the wind was blowing, and it was like you were going to die right there on the street. Then in other places, out in the sun, it didn’t feel so bad.

So, our points of interest?

The Allegheny River and the ballparks and bridges that line it.
I’ll have to wait until baseball season to show her how awesome it looks, looking the other way around.

Sweetpea, the Ravens fan, hurls obscenities at Heinz Field.

OK, that’s not technically true, but it could have been. We basically had the city to ourselves. While we were down at the Confluence, there was nary a body in sight. It was like we were plopped down in the zombie apocalypse, without the zombies.

I couldn’t wait to show her PPG Plaza, which is gorgeous on most days,
but even better with the Christmas tree and ice rink.

By the time we got to Market Square, we were pretty much done with browsing; we needed someplace to warm up and get a bite to eat. We ended up at Diamond Market.
I was quite happy to tuck into the Colossal Cod sandwich.

On the way back to the hotel, we found a wine and spirits shop downtown, from which we picked up a little bourbon. Once back to the Penn, we poured ourselves a couple of drinks and went down to sit in the lobby.

Sitting down there with our drinks on the couches, it felt like we were movie stars in some 1920s musical. I kept waiting for a flash mob to show up.

Once sufficiently warmed up, inside and out, we retired to the room for a much needed nap. Hey, nobody parties like fifty-somethings! But we wanted to rest up for the main event: The Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets!

We had seats in the 6th row, down by the corner on the side. This was Sweetpea’s first NHL game, so I wanted us to sit up close. The location was good for catching a number of nice pictures:
Unguarded moments…
Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary have a laugh.
…sly smiles…
Sid Crosby laughing at Hornqvist, probably about the missing “u” in his name.
…special moments…
Penguins’ tough guy Ryan Reeves fist-bumps with a small fan.

…and high-speed action.
Carl Hagelin on the move.

So it was a good game… the Pens were down early but fought back to score two in the third period and tie it up. When the Pens scored in overtime, we immediately high-tailed it out of there. The last thing I wanted to do was get trapped down in the lower bowl, waiting for our turn to get out.

By the time we got to the top of the bowl, we heard that they were challenging the goal. By the time we got around the end of the concourse, we heard the goal was overturned. OT went on without resolution so the game went to a shootout.

If we’d stayed in our seats, we would have had a primo angle. But from up on the concourse, our view was more like this:
Actually, this would have been pretty sweet, but once the shootout started, everyone in the place stood up and all we could see were backs and butts, so Sweetpea and I had to watch the monitors.

Still, it was fine. The Pens won by scoring on their first two attempts while Columbus missed theirs. And with that, we were out the door in a flash. We were back up to the room (3 blocks away) before we would have even gotten out of the lower bowl if we’d stayed.

Thursday morning, we had breakfast at the Penn with an old family friend of Sweetpea’s, after which we hit the road. Got back to Baltimore by 2:45, easy as pie.

And it was a good thing we didn’t linger. I saw on the news that night that a semi overturned about 5:00 pm and blocked all three lanes of 1-70 just outside of Baltimore. Jam went for miles and lasted three hours. Count one little slice of hell avoided.

Way back at the beginning when I mentioned the three parts of last week, you may have noticed that I omitted New Years. That was purely intentional… we didn’t do jack. Stayed home, watched some football, watched the fireworks on TV and went to bed.

Thank you again for coming to visit my little corner of the internet. I hope you have a grand 2018 and I’ll do my best to provoke thoughts, laughter, and general crankiness. I’ll be back next Monday with some four-star debunkery.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas ta alla Yinz

Rather than let loose with yet another political screed, I thought it best to just let ill thoughts lie today, so we can all remember events that occurred on this day, so many years ago.
"Now I've got a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."

I'll be spending Christmas morning with Sweetpea, as she provides Christmas breakfast and drinks to family and single friends who have nowhere else to go. Later on, we'll move on to my brother's place for a festive viewing of the Steelers/Texans game. (In which we will not speak of or acknowledge that game last week. Stupid "catch" rules...)

Then it's onward to The Burgh, where I'll introduce Sweetpea to my relatives and the game of hockey at the Penguins' arena. That means I, once again, have to face one of my ongoing fears...
...Driving in Pittsburgh.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you. Your paying attention to me at my little blog is the best Christmas present I could hope for.

Be well and gather your strength for the fight that will be 2018.

Yippee-ki-ay, MFers...