Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Ownership Matters

One issue that doesn’t seem to get much attention is the ongoing consolidation of media ownership. 

There used to be strict rules about media ownership, with rules limiting the number of TV stations, radio stations and newspapers any one company could own, with special attention toward owning multiple outlets in one market.

I saw in the paper today that Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in the suburbs just north of Baltimore, announced plans to buy Bonten Media Group, which owns 14 TV stations across 8 markets.  Sinclair already owns 173 TV stations in 81 markets. 

Uncoincidentally, they made this announcement the day after the FCC relaxed broadcast ownership rules, a choice that plays to the preferences of the new Republican administration.  You rarely see Republicans do anything to impede the prospect of big business mergers.

This also comes on the heels of Sinclair’s prior announcement that they are preparing to buy Tribune Media, a merger which would bring together two of the largest television station owners.

So, why should we care?

Media moves minds, that’s why.  If one entity is servicing several hundred media markets, you have a single voice amplified into all those markets.  Whose agenda do you think it will be serving?

Imagine if a partisan entity like Fox “News” had that many outlets.  Imagine if you had Fox’s viewpoint coming out of NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, UNI and MNT affiliates across the country, all beating the same drum.  People without critical thinking and listening skills (and that’s the majority) can be easily swayed by repeated exposure to a consistent message.

It’s funny though, because what about the liberal media?  Isn’t that the presumption, that the media has a liberal bias?

It’s only a presumption because conservatives keep insisting on it, regardless of merit or data.  There are many arguments to be made but look at it through this one:  If the “media” is so liberal, how come the Republicans are loosening the rules to allow fewer voices broadcast into the market, and the Democrats are against it?

If it really was a liberal media, the GOP would be taking the opposite position and trying to restrict ownership, to allow for a diversity of voices, which would be better to get theirs heard.  But in reality, media companies are some of the largest corporations in the country, prime customers for pro-business, free market conservatism.

Fortunately for us, (thus far), most have independent news departments, who in practicing actual journalism, are obligated to ask hard questions to those in power, whichever party it may be.

The difference is that Democrats answer the questions and Republicans complain about unfair treatment from a “liberal media.”  I mean, that’s part of the strategy, isn’t it? 

When you can’t provide a satisfactory answer, blame the one asking the questions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Things That Go Boom

In his most effective Russian Problem Diversion yet, President 45 started going all Commander in Chief by dropping bombs.

First, he pretended to avenge the gassing of the children he wouldn’t let in our country by bombing the airfield in Syria, from which the gas attacks were allegedly based.

The following week, he dropped the “MOAB,” or so-called Mother of all Bombs, in Afghanistan, to blow up a tunnel system being used by ISIS.  This is the largest non-nuclear bomb the US has in its arsenal.

In reality, the results were mixed.  In Syria, the airfield was open and running traffic through it the very next day.  It was almost as if the Syrians knew the strike was coming and moved all their aircraft and personnel away from it… which is exactly what ABC news reported.

The White House said that they notified Russia before the strike; it’s not a stretch to think that the Russians then tipped off their buddy Assad, to mitigate the damage.

In Afghanistan, the body count is in the 90s; all ISIS bad guys, they say.  But what the military experts say is that this was not a bomb built for hitting hardened targets like tunnels or underground bunkers.  They have other ordnance for that.

As far as I can see, the entire point of all these explosions was to 1) Divert attention from all the Trump/Russia leaks, and 2) Look like a tough-guy president.

Republicans are never happier than when one of their guys is blowing shit up, and the bigger the boom, the better.  I bet there was nothing but raging wood all up and down the right side of the Congressional aisle.

Granted, it has to be one of their own guys.  Remember when Obama wanted to address Syria and he went to Congress to ask them to authorize military action?  Remember how Congress said no?  I do.  Obama wanted to blow up more than a runway and the Republicans both 1) said it wasn’t enough and 2) we shouldn’t involve American troops at all.

But now with their guy in office, his muted response resulted in his being seen as William the Conqueror. 

I guarantee they used the MOAB bomb for no other reason than it made a big kaboom… one that would play well on the nightly news.  And they knew all the guys in the bar would be thrilled that the old U.S. of A. was back to kicking ass and making fireballs that can be seen from the space station.

They probably wanted to get North Korea’s attention as well, but I’m not sure that would make an impression.  NK is basically a suicidal regime.  The dough-faced tyrant over there doesn’t care what happens to his captives… I mean, citizens.  I’m sure KJU has a tunnel from his presidential palace down to a hardened bunker for himself and the livestock he’s been using to feed his face. 

If you ask me, they’re the perfect enemy to hype up against.  True, they’re batshit crazy, but do you really think they can do damage to the American homeland?  These guys couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn at 20 paces.  If you look closely at their missiles, you can see ACME stenciled on them.  And we think they’re going to get one all the way across the Pacific and hit us?  They couldn’t even blow up the Panama Canal correctly, with the Chechens helping them.
Of course, they could probably succeed in “accidently” lobbing a missile into South Korea or Japan.  So I suppose we ought to clear out.  I bet the natives are restless over there.

The best idea on Korea I’ve heard so far came from Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, who says all we need for a peaceful resolution is a way for North Korea to save face.  He suggests having South Korea give up their half of the Demilitarized Zone, on the condition it’s occupied exclusively by the Chinese.  That way South Korea gives up nothing useful, North Korea gets to claim victory and neither one will cross China.  Everyone wins.

Of course, we wouldn’t get to blow anything else up and where’s the fun in that?

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Whole New Ballgame

As you may recall, I’ve been going to an awful lot of ballgames in the last couple of years.  Last year alone, I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a new personal record for one season.

I go to so many games for a number of reasons… It’s fun, I’m a sports fan, it’s affordable (for a big-league sports event), the facility is nice, it’s convenient, it gets me out of the house, but most of all, I haven’t had anything better to do.

But now, since I met Sweetpea, I do have other things to do, for a change.  But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up the ballgames.  She likes going to games so I can take her with me.  Not to 26 of them, mind you, but a fair number.  And I’ll also have Sitcom Kelly to keep me company on days Sweetpea doesn’t care to go.

Until school lets out in mid-June, it requires special planning to account for her dog, if she’s going to be away for that long.  And to help matters, I conceded that we can get there only one hour before game-time, as opposed to the two hours early that I usually allow.  (If she sat and drank beer at The Bullpen for as long as I usually do, she’d be comatose by the first pitch.)

So it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, last weekend, when we took our first trip to Camden Yards together.  It was a 4:05 game so we planned to arrive between 2:30 and 3:00.  I was eager to share my traditional game-day experiences with her, especially introducing her to my usual bartender and friends down at The Bullpen.

But first, we had our subway ride into town.  I had my monthly pass, of course, so we got her a $4 “day-pass.”  After we got off the train, I had her give hers to me for safe keeping, because chivalry is totally not dead yet.  Plus I didn’t want it getting lost.  I have a little plastic sleeve that I keep mine in, so hers went in there too.

Because the hated Yankees were in town, the place was lousy with New Yorkers and the outside bar areas were mobbed.  There were no seats at the bar at The Bullpen, but we found a place to stand, which was good enough for the moment.  We could nurse a couple of beers and stake out the people who looked like they were getting ready to leave.  (This is why I usually get there so early… there are much better odds of getting a seat at the bar.)

I was bummed because A) I’d left my Bullpen VIP card at home, and B) none of the regular bartenders, nor the bar manager were there.  That meant nobody knew me, so I had to drink regular-priced beer, just like a non-VIP schmo. 

A couple of young girls jammed themselves right in front of us, and within minutes, they swooped in and sat in the seats left behind by the couple whose stools we were staking out.  Little shits!  Duly insulted, we left, which was fine because it gave us time to wander around the ballpark.  Sweetpea had been there before, but not often.  And lord knows I’m a veritable fountain of information, now that I’ve taken the Camden Yards tour

Our tickets were in the left field club section, a place from which I’ve seen quite a lot of games.  I like it because it’s more secluded, has all the club level amenities, yet doesn’t cost any more than the lower left field box seats. 

Our view from section 272.

Nevertheless, our section was still defiled by a handful of Yankees fans, who’d made the trip down from NYC.  At least they were entertaining…

Walking around the club level, I had the chance to tell my fabled story of the time I wasn’t sufficiently careful in choosing the restroom I walked into. 

Anyway, we saw a good game and enjoyed the afternoon, although if I were dying, this would have been the perfect game to attend because it seemed to go on F O R E V E R!  We were three hours in and had only seen six innings.  We took that as our cue to leave.  It was still a close game, with the Orioles down by one, but I figured we’d be home in time to catch the end on TV.

We heard a huge roar shortly after we left the park, so I figured the O’s had tied it up.  I figured I could check it out once we got on the train and it eventually came up from underground (about halfway home).  Again, I took Sweetpea’s subway pass after she used it, and put it in the holder with mine so I could make sure it didn’t get lost. 

Then it took about 25 minutes for a train to show up.  Pissed me off because they’re supposed to run every 10-11 minutes on the weekends.  That’s another thing to do when you’re dying… go sit in a subway station and wait for late trains.

So eventually, a train came and whisked us toward our destination.  And when I checked the box score on my phone, I saw that not only had the Orioles taken the lead right there in the 7th, but they were just closing out the win in the bottom of the 9th.  So NOW they start burning through the innings?  Gah!

The train pulled into our station and we hopped out.  As the train pulled away and we went down the escalator I reached into my pocket to give her the subway pass (which is required to enter AND exit) and guess what wasn’t there.

Fuck.  Me.  The passes were in the same pocket as my phone and when I reached in to pull out my phone, the passes must have slipped out too, and fallen on the seat or floor.  So much for my Knight in Shining Armor routine, steadfastly guarding milady’s day pass…

But worse, my monthly pass was gone and I still have three more weeks of subway rides on it.  Fuuuuck!  Granted, it could have been worse… I’ve been working from home two days a week lately, so that’s an expense of $24 averted.  But still, I’ll have to spend $36 in subway fare this month, that I’ve already bought.

I hope it was found by someone who needed it, anyway.

So the first game with my baby didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, but I can’t complain.  It was only our opening day and I got to spend a nice afternoon with a pretty girl, watching a baseball game.  We’ll have a lot of other opportunities to work out the kinks.  And I’m pretty sure she’ll be carrying her own subway pass from now on. 

In fact, she should carry mine too.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Odd Bits - The Fox Tales Edition

I don’t have enough material on any single issue to warrant a post today, so that means it’s time for some Odd Bits.

Fox in the Henhouse
I saw this story clinging to my Yahoo home page and I just kept wondering, “Why is this a story?

The click-bait headline was: “Drexel Professor: ‘I tried not to vomit’ when a passenger gave his seat to a soldier.”  The gist was this professor thought the first class passenger offering to trade seats w/ a uniformed serviceman was smug and self-congratulatory, and tweeted about it.

My take: the guy sounds like an asshole, he’s taking a lot for granted about motivations here, and ultimately it’s none of his business.  But it’s not a news story.  Some dude got his pants in a twist.  Happens every day.

Then I saw the source of the story: Fox “News.”  That explains it.

Fox’s angle is threefold.

1)      Fox loves to characterize colleges as a hotbed of liberalism being inflicted on our apple-cheeked youth in a dastardly attempt to turn them into godless Commies.  So anytime a professor can be shown in a negative light, (and this one came gift-wrapped for maximum harrumphing) it’s going to get maximum exposure.   

2)      Fox also has a stake in combatting the education of idealistic young people.  See, if they go to college and find out that a bunch of things they learned from their parents or church aren’t really true, they might not become a reliable red-state voter like Uncle Rupert wants them to be.  The last thing Fox wants if for young voters to decide that fossil fuel ISN’T the best way to go, or that coal sludge dumped directly into running streams might foul up the local fishing, or birth control really IS the most realistic way to prevent pregnancy.  Why do you think these voter ID states don't include college IDs as permissible forms of identification?
3)     This particular professor has made statements in favor of white genocide and generally taking white men to task for the plight of the oppressed.  Fox doesn’t like that because it conflicts with their editorial angle that white men have already solved racism, and the only bigotry left is that of “reverse racism” against whites. 

So, in a nutshell, we have some disturbed white guy sending pissy tweets.  This is not news to anyone but Fox.  Unless it's the President, in which case it gets a half hour’s conversation on Fox and Friends.

Yes, Three’s a Crowd, but also Necessary to Keep the VP from Sexing you Down
The “Billy Graham Rule,” have you heard of that?  If so, that’s probably because it just came out that VP Pence adheres to that rule, or at least he did 15 years ago.  In honor of this rule, Pence declared that he would never eat dinner with another woman, or be anywhere where there are women and alcohol present, without his wife.

Now, I can see an angle of self-preservation there that I can’t necessarily condemn.  If you can’t control yourself, that is, in which case it’s better to keep temptation to a minimum.  But aren’t these super-religious family men supposed to be spiritually prepared to ignore their baser instincts?

As some regular schmo, maybe a guy can pull that off.  But as the second in command of the US government?  That doesn’t seem very fair to women.  (As if the current regime gives a shit about fairness to anyone who isn’t a rich white man…) 

Like on a golf course, the business of government often gets done over dinner.  That’s one of the reasons why country clubs were forced, kicking and screaming, into allowing female members.  So would he use this evangelical throwback of a “rule” as the means not to have dinner with his, say, Secretary of Education or Transportation?  Maybe.

More likely, it just means he’d be less likely to hire a woman into any position of power, with whom he might have to work closely.

The thing that yanks my pubes about it is that it’s just one more way to blame the woman for a man not being able to keep his dick to himself (or to his wife).  It doesn’t matter that she’s qualified to do the job or that she is not remotely interested in the VP’s Department of Schong; the only solution is not to allow her to reach a position of power that entails working closely together.  OR, hiring her but restricting access so that she can’t do her job to the fullest.  

It’s just one of a zillion ways that white men keep a little more prosperity for themselves, at the expense of women of all colors.  But it’s all good because some old religious con artist said so.

But on the Bright Side…
Speaking of con artists, there were new felony charges brought against those bogus “citizen journalists” who accused Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts for profit, via a criminally deceptive video tape.  The two videographers were charged with 15 counts each of filming someone without their consent.  (That’s one count for each person filmed without consent.)

It’s not exactly racketeering, but hey, if they could get Capone on tax evasion, why not?  I’d love to see these clowns do some jail time.  Maybe their next “sting” operation can be of the “How Not to Get Boned up the Ass in the Shower Room” variety.

It’s just funny that these “sting” tapes have triggered more than a dozen state investigations and not one turned up even a sniff of wrong-doing, let alone a chargeable offense.  Yet to this day, state governments still site the tape as “evidence” that Planned Parenthood needs to lose funding.

Social conservatives got what they wanted, though.  They got their election-year headlines.  They didn’t actually need any of it to be true; it just had to be sticky enough to last through Election Day. 

It’s funny how these pricks will stoop to any level of deceit if it will get them what they want.  And they can probably find a Bible verse to back them up, too. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Unlike Generalissimo Franco, the ACA is Still Not Dead

People with health issues and varying amounts of cash to pay for treatment got a reprieve last week when the President and the Speaker of the House pulled the AHCA from considerations.  Despite a week of arm-twisting, leadership was not able to secure the votes needed for passage.
The bill was not expected to pass the Senate anyway.

While at first glance, one might think it cause for celebration; that cooler heads prevailed to keep the American public from getting shafted.  But that’s not really the case.  Sure, there were moderate Republicans who feared the backlash from constituents who would lose their insurance.  But the real obstacle were the hard-right conservatives that didn’t think the AHCA went far enough to remove government aid for the poor from health care.  In other words, 24 million people losing their insurance wasn’t enough.

For example, Rep. Mark Meadow (R-NC), Chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, balked at having essential health-benefit requirements remain in the current law, like maternity and newborn car, and substance abuse treatment.

Yep, they want to save the babies, but they sure as shit don’t want to provide anything for them once they’re born.

At first, the President tried to blame Democrats, but that didn’t gain much traction.  How does one blame a party for refusing to help you dismantle a program they fought like hell to enact?  Their resistance was a given.

The real fault was obviously with the Republicans, who were not able to pass their own bill, even though they had numbers to spare and 7 years to come up with an idea they could all support.  I think it’s a leftover indicator of the Tea Party influence.  Representatives swept into office in 2010 by the Tea Party showed that they were unwilling to compromise on anything and would settle for nothing less than every single thing they wanted.

As Stephen Colbert once said, their thought process was “You scratch my back… and I get my back scratched.”  Now they’re doing it to each other, rather than just “the enemy.”

It’s funny how the GOP still complains about how the ACA was passed so quickly and rammed down everyone’s throats.  I guess it depends on one’s point of view.  It may have felt like it was passed quickly, because passage seemed inevitable, but look at the numbers.

There were 79 Congressional hearings over the proposed ACA, which included over a hundred witnesses, expert and otherwise, who gave testimony.  The hearings went on for a year and a half.  There were also multiple budgetary “scores” from the CBO, as the bill evolved.

Contrast that to the AHCH.  Republicans introduced the bill on a Monday and passed it at 4:30 in the morning, three days later.  They actively kept the bill from being seen by Democrats, as they moved it from place to place.  There were zero hearings, zero witnesses, and zero testimony.  There was no analysis from the CBO until after the bill had passed.

So why did they want to pass it so fast?  Simple answer… they knew how grossly unpopular the AHCA was going to be, once the details went public.  Only 17% of the American people support this proposal.  There’s no way not to see it as a massive tax cut for the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. 
 And once passed, congressmen can go into hiding from their constituents, knowing that in their massively gerrymandered districts, with their high-moneyed benefactors filling their re-election coffers, they’d have nothing to worry about as far as keeping their jobs.  Republicans are nothing if not adept at moving people attention from an unpleasant topic to a trumped up “scandal.”

We haven’t seen the last of the Republican effort to get rid of the ACA.  For the time being, they can continue to do what they’ve been doing: killing it via a thousand cuts.  Trump has already made public his intent to let the ACA crash through benign neglect or outright sabotage and then shift blame to the Democrats.
Then when there’s nothing left of the ACA, they’ll resurrect this loaded diaper and rewrap it for public consumption.  I don’t know what benefit it will be to the average American, but you know it will contain a massive tax cut for the wealthy.  That’s really the only component Republicans really care about.

The only question is whether we will remember in 2018 what they’re doing in 2017.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome to Rock ‘n Roll Heaven; Your Throne Awaits

It was with great sadness, this weekend, that I learned of the passing of Chuck Berry.

There is no possible way to over-estimate the influence of Chuck Berry on rock and roll.  He pretty much invented it, Elvis and Bill Haley be damned.

If it wasn’t for Chuck, the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame would be nothing but an overly-stylized greenhouse.

I know for me, none of my favorite groups would have been my favorite groups, or likely anyone’s favorite groups, without Chuck Berry.

The Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, AC/DC, George Thorogood, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, The J Geils Band, ELO, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Motley Crue, The Kinks, Huey Lewis, and practically every rock band that featured an electric guitar, owe their careers to Chuck Berry.  Hell, Angus Young practically stole Chuck’s whole act.  (Although I’m pretty sure Chuck never wore an English schoolboy suit.)

Someone once asked George Thorogood why he didn’t write many of his own songs.  George replied, “Because Chuck Berry already wrote all the good ones.  On his 1990s live album, Thorogood called Johnny B. Goode the “rock and roll national anthem.”

With the latter quote in mind, I had a thought on Sunday, as the Penguins regular anthem singer, Jeff Jimerson, stepped onto the ice:
That might have set off a scandal amongst this country’s “true patriots,” though, who are against anything but dewy-eyed reverence when it comes to the anthem, and the NHL doesn’t need that kind of bad PR.  Maybe they could have done it along with the regular anthem like they do when a US team plays a Canadian team and they do both anthems.  Would have been awesome!  Without Chuck, few of the bands they use in hockey arenas would even exist.

Johnny B. Goode is one of the most “covered” rock songs in history; any garage band worth its salt has a version.  Besides Thorogood’s, Johnny Winter’s version is my favorite.
It’s no accident that the Back to the Future scene where Marty McFly has to play for a 1950s dance, they used JBG.  Not Elvis, not Jerry Lee or Bill Haley, but Chuck Berry.

That’s what gave the scene resonance; if Chuck Berry wasn’t the root of modern rock music, that bit falls flat.

In the last verse of Bob Seger’s Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets, he name-drops Chuck Berry:

Well all of Chuck’s children are out there, playin’ his licks
So get into your kicks.
Come back baby, rock ‘n roll never forgets.”

I think the musician most closely associated with Chuck is Keith Richards.  It was Keith who was the driving force behind the feature film “Hail Hail Rock and Roll,” which was part documentary, part concert film. 

Keith had a camera crew follow him around as he convinced Chuck to do the project, put a band together (including forging a peace between Chuck and his old piano player, Johnny Johnson), and rehearsed the show.

There’s no question that Chuck was a ball-buster.  The film shows Chuck and Keith going nose to nose when Chuck doesn’t like the way Keith is playing a particular lick and makes him do it again and again.  And Keith takes it, as a show of respect for Chuck. 

That respect is probably the only thing that kept Chuck out of the hospital, on another occasion where he punched Keith right in the face.  See, Keith picked up Chuck’s guitar, which is something he allowed no one to do, ever.

"If that was anybody else," Keith said later, "I'd have slit his fuckin’ throat.” 

Chuck had several quirks that were known throughout the music business.  From at least the 70s on, he never had a permanent backing band.  He’d just roll into town and the promoter would have a local band play with him.  It was a given that they all knew his songs.  Whether they could agree on a key to play them in, was another story.

Chuck insisted on being paid in cash, following his shows.  He did all his business on a cash basis.  And after the royal screwing black musicians got throughout the 50s and 60s, from record labels and businessmen, I don’t blame him.  Those guys got screwed dry by the very machine that made them famous.

There’s one thing that always bugged me:  Out of all the huge, timeless, inspirational hits… Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Livin’ in the USA, No Particular Place to Go, Maybelline… his only number one Billboard hit was a ridiculous 1972 novelty song called “My Ding-a-Ling.”  

Just goes to show that there’s no accounting for taste.  (Sure, I liked it at the time, but I was eleven, for cryin’ out loud.) 

So, the next time you find yourself jamming to some glorious, blues-drenched, three-chord rock ‘n roll, give a thought to where it all came from and remember Chuck Berry.

Rest in peace, Chuck.  And just wait till you get a load of your new backup band!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Repealing the ACA

I have never seen so much “pretzel logic” as I have surrounding this ACA repeal.  Politicians on the right are twisting themselves in knots trying to sell this shit sandwich as something positive for America when it is clearly only positive for the super-rich people who are getting their taxes slashed.

As soon as the Republican Insurance Plan (or RIP*) became public, Republicans began a campaign to discredit the Congressional Budget Office (or CBO) because they knew this independent, bi-partisan bill evaluation committee would depict their health care bill accurately.  They knew it would be bad PR because they absolutely knew their proposal does very little to help lower and middle-class Americans.  The last thing they want is the truth getting in the way of their rosy narrative.

Director’s DVD Commentary: Yes, I know that they actually call the bill the American Health Care Act, (or AHCA), but I think the RIP is a much more realistic name.  Actually, they should have called the bill the American Crisis of Health Edict, or ACHE.  Truth in advertising, right?

 The funny thing about this CBO report… Trump spent all last year slamming Obama by using CBO projections.  They seemed pretty accurate to him then, right?  And since his election, the CBO is led by one of his own appointees.  But now their projections are “unbelievable, wrong and virtually impossible?”  Please.  It’s just one more example of the GOP making up claims out of whole cloth and attacking anyone who rebuts them.

OK, it’s a different subject but the same principle.

It’s obvious this bill is nothing but a gift to the rich… look who’s lining up against it: The AARP, the AMA and other doctor and nurse organizations, an array of hospital groups, and then the usual assortment of liberal interest groups. 

And then there are a number of conservative groups who are also against it, albeit for vastly different reasons.  The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots think it still gives too much away to all those wretched poor people.  But it might be enough to kill the bill.

And that’s what Trump seems to want now.  He’s asking why they don’t just let the ACA implode on its own so they can blame the Democrats.

That’s akin to the Democrats launching a giant balloon, which the Republicans shoot down and then blame the Democrats for the crash because it’s their balloon.

Of course the ACA will die if insurance companies know it won’t be supported by the government.  They’ve got no reason to work with a system that’s going to be abandoned at the first moment it is politically expedient to do so.  That’s why it’s been going down the tubes in the last couple of years.  Republicans have been causing uncertainty over the program, taking symbolic vote after vote to repeal it, and generally showing hostility.  But now those votes to repeal won’t be merely symbolic.

And Republicans have become expert in shifting blame… all they have to do is keep repeating “It’s the Democrats’ fault, it’s the Democrats’ fault.”  Their minions at Fox “News” and on talk radio will provide the echo chamber and soon, “everyone will know” that the Democrats are to blame.  They don’t even have to blow the smoke from the barrels of their guns.

The only thing we can do is be unrelenting with the truth and call “foul” every time they try to shift the blame.  Republicans killed the ACA in its crib through abandonment, neglect and withholding remedies, all because it costs the richest Americans some tax dollars, without which they are STILL the richest Americans.  But yeah, now we have the “freedom” not to have to purchase insurance, so we can die off that much faster and leave an even greater slice of the pie to the wealthy.  That’s a win/win for them.

There are no protests or petitions or speeches that will change any of this.  They absolutely don’t care what the average American has to say.  They listen only to their political benefactors, who finance their campaigns.  They do not dare displease their sugar daddies, or else they’ll find themselves facing a tough primary challenge, as the money guys buy someone else to do their bidding.

The only recourse is to vote the bastards out.  We must make our voices heard at the voting booth and proclaim “you will do OUR bidding instead of that of your corporate overlords.”  We must REMEMBER what’s going on right now and who is robbing people of their health care.

Granted, I’m not hopeful.  By the time November of 2017 rolls around, Republicans will have come up with a new distraction or outrage, designed to divert our attention from those who pull the strings of government; leaving them free to push our tax dollars into their bulging coffers.

Monday, March 6, 2017


One of the things that bothered me about the Republicans for the last several years is the staggering hypocrisy they exhibit.  Now I know politicians lob that bomb back and forth across the divide constantly, but I’m going to demonstrate my point with specifics… a lot of them.

Republicans obstructed everything Obama wanted to do for his entire eight years, although they were most effective during the latter six when they had control of the House and eventually the Senate.  They filibustered any bill they saw fit, meaning anything that was important to the president or Democrats.  They held up judicial appointments until there was no more than a trickle, leaving hundreds of spots on the bench unfilled.  Most famously, they held up Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee for 10 months, for no good reason other than they didn’t want any Obama nominee (who might upset the advantage they’ve enjoyed for the last 40-odd years.)

Now, even with control of both houses and the presidency, they complain about the Democrats slowing down progress on Trump’s cabinet nominees.  The Kings of Obstruction complain about the Democrats obstructing.  That’s hypocrisy.

Goldman Sachs
Trump and the rest of the GOP contenders relentlessly hammered Hillary Clinton because she gave a speech to Goldman Sachs executives.  “How could middle-class Americans trust her if she’s so close to these Wall Street guys?” they asked.

Then their guy gets elected and packs his cabinet and advising staff with six guys from Goldman Sachs.  They complain about her giving a speech to these guys, then put six of them in the White House.  That’s hypocrisy.

Adjacent note: They also complained about Hillary getting paid for her speeches… as if Republicans are beyond paid speaking gigs.  Total hypocrites there too.

Wall Street
The GOP presidential nominees seemed to think that Hillary’s closeness with Wall St (in general) was a major liability.  “How could she represent or understand the needs of the poor or middle class when she’s so cozy to Wall Street?” 

Republicans are currently working on a bill that defangs “Dodd-Frank,” which was enacted to prevent the kind of financial collapse that happened in 2008.  Part of that defanging is defunding, eliminating, or removing the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose only job is to protect Americans from getting conned, misled, and generally screwed by Wall Street banks. 

This is essentially a big gaudily-wrapped Christmas present to the banking industry, who will now be able to get back to the business of deceiving its customers, in search of greater profits.  They didn’t really mean any of that about it being bad to be so tight with Wall Street because they’re hypocrites.

Another adjacent note: Trump also signed an executive order eliminating “The Fiduciary Rule,’ which stated that brokers are required to put their customers’ financial interests before their own.  Republicans apparently think that brokers cannot function without permission to steer clients into investments that lose money but earn the brokerage high fees and bonuses.  That’s because they’re hypocrites.

Information Security
Republicans spent years investigating Hillary’s use of a private email server, pretending that it was some kind of great crime and a risk to the nation.

President Trump uses his standard, unsecured, civilian-issue Android cell phone to call, text and tweet.  Members of his cabinet all use a private server set up by the Republican Party.  Nobody cares about information security anymore.  Obviously, it only applies to Democrats, which makes them raging hypocrites.

Travel and Leisure
Obama was castigated any time he was seen on vacation.  In fact, Republicans criticized him pretty much whenever he had to travel, for whatever reason, for wasting the taxpayers’ money.  Any time he played a round of golf, the GOP was in uproar.

Trump has played 8 rounds of golf in 6 weeks, commandeers Air Force One to take him to Florida so he can play his own golf course, and stay at his own resort… all at taxpayer expense.

The black guy and his family are expected to work around the clock, 24/7.  But it’s perfectly fine to subsidize the white guy so he can funnel money into his own investments… because Republicans are hypocrites.

First Ladies
Michelle Obama was raked for anything she did, however benign, from planting a garden to daring to wear sleeveless dresses, which were deemed insufficiently classy.  She was called all manner of racist, repugnant names and held to a standard not asked of any past first lady and especially not the present one.

The internet is full of naked pictures of Melania Trump, but no conservative has dared to criticize her or call her classless.  And if Michelle Obama forced the taxpayers to foot the bill so that she and the girls could stay outside the White House on a semi-permanent basis, there would have been Tea Party riots in the streets.  The Tea Party was supposed to be all about eliminating waste and balancing the budget, right?  Where’s the outrage over the million bucks a day it takes to secure the first lady in Manhattan?

There isn’t any because the Tea Party is full of hypocrites.

Obama was criticized for not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office, from time to time (just like every other recent president).  Republicans felt such informality was beneath the dignity of the office.

Kellyanne Conway was photographed sitting on her knees on an Oval Office couch, during a gathering of presidents of traditionally black colleges, like she was hanging out at in her bestie’s family room.  No one from the right said jack shit about it… because they’re hypocrites.  Only Democrats have to meet these arbitrary standards of decorum.

The thing is, these last couple of issues are completely unimportant.  I only highlight them here because they were set up to be standards that Republicans refuse to acknowledge for themselves.  They’re very good at establishing lofty, unrealistic and unattainable goals for their opponents.  But when it’s their turn, we have a case of conservative mass-amnesia.  

This is what we have to keep in mind for future campaigns:  The Republicans don’t really care about what they use to criticize Democrats.  The only goal is to get you mad about it, or afraid of it.  They don’t care if it’s true, false or indifferent, and they have zero plans to live up to the same standards.

It’s all about getting you to vote for them, in most cases, against your own financial interest.

They actually convinced 23% of America (in the right places) that the rich real estate heir cares about Joe Sixpack and would look out for him and all his little half-pints.

And as soon as he got elected, the Republicans flipped everyone the bird and went on with directing federal money back to the wealthiest people in the country, which is what they planned to do all along.

Because they’re all fucking hypocrites.

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Update From Cloud Nine

It’s been about a month since I dropped that little happiness bomb and told you about my new honey.  In addition to being tired of complaining about the new regime, I figured it’s about time for an update.

All I can say is “so far, so good.”

But because that would make way too short of a post, I should probably flesh it out a bit.

We’ve been getting together once during the week and then spending most of the weekends together.  It’s been really great.  She’s such a calming influence on me… very chill.  She has an aura that says, “It’s all good, just relax and enjoy.  Everything’s OK.

I really need that, because I tend to over-analyze things and get worked up over minor details.  She just lets me go off and then reels me back in again.  Always with a smile.

She’ll probably laugh when she sees this because she’s always telling that between her dog, her live-in relative and her friends that pop by most every night, her house chaotic.

And she’s right, but it’s also where I find my peace.  It’s been six weeks and we’ve barely had a disagreement, let alone any kind of spat.  Maybe it’s because as a teacher, she’s skilled at handling small children, I don’t know…

Friday Night Dance Party takes place most every week.  She cranks up the Motown and other fun music and she and her friends drink and dance and carry on.  Best of all, they seemed to have accepted me into the tribe.  What’s not for me to like? 

She’s an amazing cook, too, and remarkably enough, even my well-documented culinary idiosyncrasies haven’t prevented her from feeding me like a king.  She gets me.  She thinks I’m funny and loves the way I put things, in my often-unusual way.  She doesn’t necessarily understand my spreadsheet fixation, my penchant for keeping lists or need to wear game jerseys while watching sports events on TV; she just accepts it and gets out of the way.

Unconditional acceptance is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, meeting her friends was a breeze.  Meeting her dad, however, was unexpected and a wee bit stressful.

It was Super Bowl Sunday.  We planned on doing our own things that day; she was having Dad over for an early dinner because he wanted to be back home in time for the game.  I was going to go to my usual sports bar and watch the game there.  Not expecting a huge crowd, I was planning on getting there about an hour before kickoff, about 5:30, to make sure I got my regular spot at the end of the bar.

Around 5:00 I was just stirring from my afternoon nap and getting ready to jump in the shower, when she texted me, wanting to know if I was at the bar yet.

Do you want to meet Daddy?”

At first, I thought she meant that they’d drop by the bar.  I asked for clarification and she said… well, let me show you…

You come now here.”  That didn’t sound like a suggestion.  In fact, I don’t know what that sounded like… maybe Arnold Schwartzenegger after too much wine.

Anyway, at that particular moment, I was thinking, “Oh HELL no…”

I mean, I was all set to watch the game at the bar and had planned on getting there at just the right time to get my usual seat.  I’ll admit that I don’t adapt to changes of plan very easily.

I hadn’t stewed on it too long before I had a moment of clarity: “Dummy, when your new girlfriend wants you to meet her dad, you get your ass over there.  Period.” 

Thus, I went from an internal debate on what I should do to a planning session on how I should do it.  So I accepted and let her know I had to catch a shower and then I’d be on my way.

Shortly thereafter, she informed me that “Dad left gum.”

I had no freakin’ idea what that was supposed to mean, other than I wouldn’t get there in time because he’d left already. 

Later, we agreed that it had to be an auto-correction, but she had no idea what she was trying to type.  It’s been a running joke between us ever since.

Anyway, it went fine with her dad.  I just had to keep a lid on my liberal attitudes, which I knew going in, even before I saw his bumper sticker proclaiming the value of both Jesus and guns.  (It told me I should pray to Jesus that I don’t get shot.)

Even though I was wearing my “Six Times Super Bowl Champion Steelers” hat, we found common ground that we were both rooting again the Patriots.  I’ll take the win wherever I can get it.

After he left, she and I sat and watched the pregame festivities together while I simultaneously kept an eye on my watch, wondering when I should make a break for it and run out to the bar.

Just before kickoff, I had a second moment of clarity.  This one told me, “Why on earth would you go sit on a bar stool surrounded by a bunch of drunks, as opposed to watching the game all curled up on a couch with a beautiful girl?”

Needless to say, I let someone else fill my bar stool that night.


I learned something else while I’ve been visiting Sweetpea… Did you know that guys and gals stock their refrigerators in completely different ways?  Here, try this test:  One of these is hers and the other is mine.  Guess whose fridge is whose.

Fridge #1

Fridge #2

Wait, are you sure you don’t want to think about it some more? 

OK, OK, right… mine is #2.  Cheese sticks, olive cups, a jar of gravy and cocktail weenies (in the plastic container); that’s the extent of my food.  Although if you count the condiments in the door, I’m stocked to the gills!  And my freezer is full too, for what that’s worth.  But she’s got a veritable produce department in hers, as well as a vast assortment of meats and cheeses.  YES, including cheese sticks!  (But they’re for the dog.)

We also differ as to what we consider a “find” in the store.

Last weekend, we went out to a local “overstock” store named Ollie’s.  It’s one of those “Big Lots” kind of places where you never know what you’ll find in there from week to week.

While she was consulting the Great Wall of Dog Treats, I went in search of my own treats, which led me to the Pop Tart aisle.  Have you ever seen these before?

I’ve never heard of Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts before… I wasn’t exactly coveting them; I thought it was merely a curiosity.  Didn’t see how they could possibly be any good, not without whipped cream, anyway.  But then I heard someone call out from another aisle, and what he said caused me to investigate.

Maple. Bacon. Pop Tarts.

Holy crap, it’s the Holy Grail.  I could hear a choir of angels as I gazed upon the box.  Again, I’d never even heard of these things before, yet I knew I had to try them.  Sweetpea thought I was nuts, and indicated such by making gagging and retching noises.  Undaunted, I put them in the cart anyway.  I figured I owed it to YOU, my bacon-loving friends, to determine if Maple Bacon Pop Tarts are the real deal or just another lame stab at the bacon craze.  (Plus... a dollar ninety-seven!)

Then I also came across these:

Off brand Fig Newtons, made with blueberry instead of fig.  Worth a try, right?  Mom always told me I was obsessed with blueberry Pop Tarts as a kid… when I could get them from Grandma! 

Cut to Sunday morning, as I conducted my food experiments. (Or in other words, ate breakfast.)  Here is what I concluded.

While warming up, the Pop Tarts smell like a Denny’s… a combination of maple syrup and bacon.  So far, so good.  But they actually tasted like a regular brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart.  So essentially, the Maple Bacon Pop Tart is a brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart wearing bacon cologne.

As for the blueberry faux Newtons; they’re pretty good.  Not overwhelmingly good, just pretty good.  They’re only marginally different than regular Fig Newtons.  Maybe they just dyed the filling blue.

So that’s the news on the home front.  All systems: Go.  Next week, I’ll be back to bemoaning the state of the Executive Branch.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Debunkery - The Mismatched Fruit Edition

I often get the urge to “unfollow” friends who keep posting “alternative facts” on Facebook, but then I remember that I’d be cutting myself off from an endless source of blog material.  So much better to copy the meme and then tear it apart here.

This one’s too easy.  Ahem… Who says we’ve spent all our infrastructure funds?  We haven’t… as if there is any such earmark for this sort of thing.  Congress can spend money on anything they please.  The only thing keeping the money from being spent on repairing roads, bridges, and dams is the Republican congress who would rather front 20 billion for a wall.  Or the Republicans who voted down infrastructure spending bills for the last six years while they controlled Congress.

Notice how Republicans only seek spending offsets (cuts to counter proposed spending) when the spending in question benefits the general public.  No one ever mentions offsets when passing bills that benefit big business or the defense industry. 

Funny how they always look for the offsets in those tiny little orange slices.

Instead of taking potshots at foreigners and the downtrodden, this meme should really say, “That awkward moment when you realize that the wall you’re building to keep the Mexicans out should have been built around Oroville, to keep out the floodwaters from the neglected dam.”

Right, because that’s the real tragedy… the handful of Americans killed by illegal immigrants.  Because we’re all fine with the tens of thousands killed by native-born Americans every year.  We obviously can’t do anything about those, or else the gun fetishists might not be able to get their hands on military-grade assault weapons whenever they get the itch for a new fix, without the crippling inconvenience of waiting a few days.  Or without being told, “No, because no civilian needs a gun that shoots 16 rounds per second.”

Someone wake me up when it’s time for the telethon to benefit those killed by pasty, squinty-eyed, racist, ex-military white men.  I’m pretty sure it won’t be carried by Fox “News” though.

Another complete "apples to oranges" comparison, which should have come with the hashtag, #IdiotLogic. People coming up with arguments like this are either too stupid to know any better or willfully ignorant of the details.  Or just a partisan hack bent on persuading poorly educated people.

The president (or his shills) telling you to buy his family’s line of clothing is a conflict of interest as described in the Constitution.  Said purchase benefits only the product owner and the person who buys the clothing. 

Same with creating the scenario in which foreign delegations throw business to a chain of hotels owned by the president and his family to curry favor with the administration.  It’s blatantly unconstitutional and if it was a rich Democrat hotelier in power, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder about the conflict of interest and threat to national security.

Being compelled to buy health insurance is one piece of a larger puzzle in which in return for paying premiums, customers receive health insurance and those in need of coverage avoid being declined.  The whole system saves money for the population in general.  Poor and uninsured people using the ER for general medical assistance and then not paying the bills cost the taxpayers money, in addition to clogging up the ERs.

If the GOP-controlled states would have genuinely participated, instead of refusing to get involved because of partisan politics, the costs would have come down over time.  More customers beget more insurers in the game, which begets competition, which begets lower prices. 

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but where are the complaints about the same government FORCING US TO GET CAR INSURANCE?  It’s the same deal… you’re required to have car insurance so that the taxpayer don’t have to pay for your accident.  Just like with the ACA, you have to buy health insurance so that the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for your treatment. 

Sure, you can refuse to own a car and get out of the insurance requirement.  But we all have a state of health and that will continue right up until the time we needn’t worry about insurance (or anything else) ever again.

This wasn’t a Facebook meme; it was a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun this morning.  Here, the writer proposes another "apples to oranges" comparison, because it leaves out one very important point:  When Obama made the comment about having more flexibility after his election, he was talking about his second election.  He was already the president!  He was indicating there was room for agreement once he didn’t have to worry about how the opposition party was going to skew the news.

That is a situation light years from the one with the Trump administration-to-be.  Foreign powers deal with the executive branch, there can only be one chief executive at a time and Trump wasn’t it yet.  Then, of course, there was that whole “cover-up” thing and “lying to the VP” thing, but why quibble?

But yeah, sure, the two situations are exactly alike, and it’s only biased reporting that keeps the problem from coming to light.

Sometimes I think the newspaper only runs letters like these just to show the void of political thought from the right.