Monday, February 29, 2016

Politix 4 Dummies

It’s been interesting to watch the institutional panic set in with the Republican Party, as it looks more and more like Donald Trump is a shoe-in to be their presidential nominee.  The reason for the panic, I believe, is that in addition to being unpredictable, they can’t control him.

Because of his wealth and name recognition, he doesn’t really need their money or the party machinery.  That frees him up to do pretty much whatever he pleases.  And everyone who’s tried to attack him has gotten their asses handed to them. 

Fox “News” seems to have a love/hate relationship with him, depending on what week it is.  But Trump has already shown that they need him more than he needs them.  He’s getting free coverage from all the networks, of everything he says and everywhere he goes.

I’ve mentioned it before but Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, has been running a series of fascinating blog posts which explain why Trump appears bulletproof; triumphing over gaffes that would end the campaigns of anyone else.  In fact, he predicted back in August, that not only would Trump win the nomination, but he’ll win the general election in a landslide.

You can find a complete listing of all his applicable posts, AKA the Trump Master Persuader Series, by clicking here.  But be careful, you can totally go down the rabbit hole.

The general point is that Trump is highly trained in the art of persuasion. While he may seem like a content-free, gaffe-spewing bumbler, everything he says has a specific purpose.  He speaks in images and identity, not specifics.  He leaves out detail so the listener can supply his own.  He speaks “past the sale,” so subconsciously, people already picture him as president.  And he is the master of the linguistic “kill shot.”

“That face…”
“Low energy…”
“Too nice…”
“Will be tied up in investigations…”
“Sweats too much…”
“Chokes under pressure…”

If you’re paying attention to the race, you likely know who the recipient of each of those was, because they were designed to stick.  (Granted, the last two were for one candidate.)

Adams also points out that some of Trump’s most extreme positions, (building the wall and having Mexico pay for it, banning Muslim immigrants, etc.) are not actually intended to be enacted as is.  Rather, they are the opening positions in a long negotiation, coming from a guy who’s an expert in deal-making.  And should Trump win the election, look for him to be pragmatic in getting the best deal that can be had, rather than sticking to the opening bid.

So what do I think?

I’ve enjoyed looking behind the curtain on the campaign, but I think a Trump presidency would be a disaster for the middle class.  The one-percenters will continue to reap record profits, as per custom during modern GOP administrations, but the rest of us will have to hear a lot about “austerity.”  We can’t afford Planned Parenthood or SNAP, but heaven forbid we cut the defense budget.

Granted, the same would be true under Cruz or Rubio, but I’d prefer the guy who’s not a religious zealot.

To me, the thing about Trump’s campaign is that I can’t respect the lack of substance.  I’m the kind of guy who wants to know HOW a process is going to work.  I’m not satisfied with a campaign based on 4th-grade level vocabulary.  It’s the very definition of lowest common denominator politics.

Don’t tell me “Many, many people think this is a good idea,” tell me how many, or cite an independent poll.  Don’t tell me “many Mexicans coming over the border are murderers and rapists.”  What are the stats and how were they gathered?  If you can’t quantify it, I don’t believe it.

But politicians don’t want to give that kind of evidence because there usually isn’t any, or if there is, it’s underwhelming.  This is a political campaign and the rules of right, wrong, and common decency do not exist.  The amount of misinformation getting put out there is staggering.  They tell lies they know are lies and when they’re reported as lies, they blame a biased media.  The only thing that matters is corralling votes by playing to people’s prejudices.

And if Trump is bad, his followers are even scarier.  I haven’t seen this kind of nationalistic fervor since the 1930s (via newsreel).  Trump can claim up and down that he’s not racist, but when his policy ideas become rallying cries of avowed racists and white supremacists, the personal attestations to the contrary don’t really matter anymore.

It’s funny how these idiots proclaim America to be so great, so exceptional, and so free, yet their first order of business is to turn America into a Christian version of Iran.  The cognitive dissonance is staggering.

And it’s no wonder there’s such a large market for Trump’s simplistic platitudes.  Most Americans are just not trained in critical thinking and that’s by design.  The powers that be don’t want educated people; they want pliable people who are educated just enough to get a job, but can be influenced to vote against their own best interest.  Trump’s not the first person to take advantage of that.

So, tomorrow should be telling, once the Super Tuesday votes have been counted.  If the Trump machine continues to roll, the Republicans will have a decision to make: Do they get on board, or sacrifice the will of their low-information voters to scuttle the whole thing through back-room convention deals?

Personally, there’s nothing I’d like to see more than a crash and burn, but I don’t think that’s likely.  They already ignored the lessons of the last two elections and doubled down on playing to angry white men and religious wing-nuts. 

And now their chosen constituency is selecting an unpredictable, self-financed, uncouth steamroller.  I don’t see how they can ignore the will of their people and then expect them to turn out in November.

If only the 1% took up a greater share of the electorate, right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

You're Not the Boss of Me

I’ve mentioned before, over the life of this blog, that my company has been up for sale.  I don’t think I ever mentioned, but the sale closed last November.  The merging of the two companies is ongoing.

At the moment, it looks like I get to keep my job, which is a great thing.  After facing it a couple times before, I’m scared witless of getting laid off and having to job-search in this day and age.  The couple times that happened to me in the past pretty much ruined my life.  It took me many years to catch up.

So, I’m thrilled I can keep doing what I do.  Of course, there are other big changes afoot, with the disbanding of the department in which I’ve been working for the past 10 years.  I would have gladly worked for my prior boss for as long as she’d have me.  We “got” each other.

Two Mondays ago, after a couple months of not knowing how the chips were going to fall, I heard from one of the head guys from out of state, who told me I could continue to manage our fleet of company cars, but that I’d be reporting to our real estate group, under Carlos.

I was fine with it.  In fact, my old boss mentioned this as a possibility several weeks before, so it wasn’t a surprise.  And I knew Carlos… he was a part of our site security team, which used to meet monthly to discuss issues dealing with the facility.  He seemed like a nice guy… always said hi to me in the hallways.

After the call, I waited all day to hear from my new boss, but no one ever contacted me.  So at the end of the day, I went down to Carlos’s office to stick my head in and say hi.  We chatted for a couple of minutes; just small talk about the department; then I left.  I figured they’d let me know what they wanted from me soon enough.

But I didn’t hear from anyone for the rest of the week.

In the meantime, I had another phone conversation with the out of state department head, who asked me to have Carlos evaluate both our organization’s contracts with our fleet vendor.  (I.E. the company that provides our fleet cars and services.)

That Friday, I passed Carlos in the hall again and gave him a heads-up that I’d be sending over the contracts, as soon as I received them.  Then last Monday, I did so.

Later Monday afternoon, a guy walked past my area and said, “Hey, I hear you’re joining our department!

I didn’t recognize him, but we exchanged pleasantries.  Then he said he got the contracts and would look them over.
What the…

I asked my co-worker, “Who was that guy I was just talking to?

He said, “That’s Carlos.”
Fuck.  Me.  This whole time I’ve been talking to the wrong fuckin' guy.

I described the guy I had been talking to and learned he was another guy from the same department.

Yes, both guys are members of our site security team, BUT, they always call into the meetings; they never show up in person.  And to make matters worse, because they work from home so often, they all use the same office.  And none the offices have names on them anymore.

There are also hundreds of people in the building who I see all the time, with whom I have even had conversations, without ever being formally introduced. 

It’s no wonder I didn’t know who’s who.

Now my only question is whether they ever noticed I didn’t really know who they were.

I figure I’d better wait a couple of months before I tell them this story.  I’d rather have a short track record of being competent before letting them know what a dipstick they have in their department.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Courting Disaster

Saturday night, Bluz Sister texted me with the best news I’ve heard all year, about the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Now, I don’t wish death on anyone, but I sure won’t miss his crusty ass on the Supreme Court bench.  Every position this guy has ever taken is the opposite of what I’d like to see done.  He claimed to be a “Constitutional Originalist,” meaning the document should be read literally and that’s it.  It’s a perfectly valid stance if your goal is to find for rich, land-owing white men at the expense of, well, everyone else.

So I wrote her back “Gonna be one hellacious fight in the Senate.  Bet the GOP tries to run out the clock, no matter who he nominatesThey will take no prisoners to make sure that no liberal judge replaces Scalia.”

That’s the big thing, this time around.  When Kagan and Sotomayor were nominated, it was to replace liberal judges.  They were just holding serve.  This nomination could switch the balance of power on the Supreme Court.  All those 5-4 decisions could start going the other way.

Then on Sunday morning, I read this quote in the paper, from Mitch McConnell: “The American People should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.  Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.

I’ve seen a lot of dumb political quotes before, but this one reaches a new level.  I knew exactly how I was going to respond and practically had my blog post written in my head.  Then I saw this meme on Facebook this afternoon, which pretty much says exactly what I was going to say:

Obviously, we who voted for Barack Obama knew damn well that appointing seats to the Supreme Court would be one of his most important duties.  And I’m sure there are a lot of people who thought the same thing and trusted their vote to Obama.  Twice.  And he won by a greater popular margin in both elections than George W Bush ever did, when Bush claimed he had a mandate from the people.

But I’m sure McConnell wasn’t intending to reach anyone with an IQ over 95 with that statement; it was for Fox “News” viewers, the place where their “facts” aren’t facts anywhere but on their network.

With the Republicans in control of the Senate, they are in a position to stall the next nomination indefinitely, even into the next presidential term, if the election doesn’t go their way. 

I’d like to say they could be pressured into granting a vote if enough people got involved, but I don’t think that’s likely.  They don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, aside from their rich business donors.  And the rich business donors will want a conservative, pro-business-at-all-costs court, so not to be forced into doing anything which could cost them money, like cleaning up after environmental messes they make or paying a living wage.

The last two appointments were bumpy, but they were a piece of cake compared to this next one.  This one is going to be all out war.  It’s going to be fought everywhere; in Congress, in the press, over social media, over regular media.  I am not looking forward to the misinformation that will be disseminated.

I mean, why would it be any different than what’s going on now?  Did you hear what Ted Cruz said on Meet the Press this weekend?

If liberals are so confident that the American people want unlimited abortion on demand, want religious liberty torn down, want the Second Amendment taken away, want veteran’s memorials torn down, want the crosses and Stars of David sandblasted off the tombstones of our fallen veterans, then go and make the case to the people.”

Well, that would be quite alarming if any of it were true.  What he’s doing there is twisting a series of liberal positions into something absurd and then casting it as what liberals really want.  He’s practically creating a parody of what liberals want and pretending it’s real.  Let’s analyze.

American people want unlimited abortion on demand…”
Nope, practically no one is in favor of that.  Most people don’t want to see late term abortions, barring some tragic health threat to the mother or fetus.  And people are overwhelmingly against having one group of people tell another how to live their lives.

No, wait, that’s not exactly true… Republicans are totally for that.  I should rephrase.  People are overwhelmingly against anyone else telling them how to live their lives.

“…want religious liberty torn down…”
Wrong.  The GOP uses “religious liberty” as palatable terminology to describe discriminating against people who aren’t like them, or don’t believe as they do.  And in this country, you can’t do that.  What they really mean is for the rights of Christians to do whatever they think the Bible tells them to do.  Believe me, if Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or anyone else felt their beliefs were keeping them from serving Christians, then we’d see how fast the concept of “religious liberty” is dismissed.

What liberals want is for no one to be able to use their religion as means to persecute or infringe on the rights of others.

“…want the Second Amendment taken away…”
Another gross over-simplification.  For some reason, conservatives are just fine with modifying every other concept and amendment in the Constitution but seem to think that the Second Amendment is absolute.  It’s a complete exaggeration of the most common liberal positions.

Wanting full background checks and keeping known terrorists from legally buying guns, limits on high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets isn’t taking the Second Amendment away… it’s self-preservation of society… It’s claiming the right not to be killed because some idiot thinks you look funny.

“…want veteran’s memorials torn down, want the crosses and stars of David sandblasted off the tombstones of our fallen veterans…”

Wrong again.  It’s not a liberal position to tear down veteran’s memorials.  However, he’s probably referring to the occasional fight over a giant cross on government land, used as a veteran’s memorial.  Again, it’s the hubris of insisting that Christianity is a one-size-fits-all blanket that covers the USA.  Men and women of many religions fought and died for their country.  Either include them all or make it a secular tribute.  The soldiers’ service to their country transcends any particular religion.

Likewise, no one is looking to remove religious insignias from tombstones.  The only controversy I’ve seen on the matter is where certain options aren’t offered.  People who have died in the service of their country should be able to have any logo they want on their fucking headstone, whether it’s a cross, a Star of David, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But that’s a long way from forcibly removing religious emblems from headstones.  It’s just a logical bait and switch.  Or in other words, lying.

“…then go and make the case to the people.”

Make what case, Ted?  This fiction you call the liberal position?  It doesn’t exist; it’s propagated by you and the other GOP dipshits, who twist words and ideas into something that will sufficiently frighten low-information voters into voting against their financial self-interest.

In other words, business as usual.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Busy as a Bachelor

I know I have it pretty good.  I mean, I complain and kvetch about being busy, like most people, but I know I don’t have nearly the kind of burden that others do.  All I have to do is look out for myself.

When I set something down, I know it will be there later.  When I put leftovers in the fridge (yeah, it happens every once in a while), I know they will be there when I want them later.  When I set the temperature on the thermostat, it stays that way.  And when I clean something, it stays pretty clean unless I mess it up. Or, it gets dusty…

That really removes a lot of stress from my life.

So it’s funny when every so often, I think, “Wow, I was really busy this weekend,” or “I got so much done,” and then I have to add a colliery… “Well, yeah, for ME…”

I thought I had one of those busy Saturdays last week.  I had to go do some shopping to solve some household issues.

First of all, during a seasonal cleaning, (“seasonal” meaning I clean once during football season, and then again during baseball season), I learned that the vacuum cleaner that Temporary Girlfriend left me in 2014 had stopped working.  There was still suction but the roller brush no longer spun.  I never liked that vac in the first place, so I figured I’d go pick up a new one.

I used to have an old classic metal Hoover; the kind with the bag that you have to replace (which I rarely did, until it was ready to burst).  But she made me toss it and use her multi-attachment suction hose thingy.  It was OK in principle, but I think it was on its last legs.  It was also deafeningly loud.

In addition, I needed to replace the broken screw that secured the toilet seat to the toilet.  It had snapped clean off.  Someone, (who totally wasn’t me,) was standing on the toilet seat, to pour soapy water over the top of my shower stall, when the seat slid and snapped the screw.

Heaven forbid I’m ever using the toilet for its intended purpose (as opposed to as a step stool… or would that be a stool step?), and slide off onto the floor.

And while I’m in the plumbing department, I thought I’d take a look at the shower heads.  A year or two back, my landlord had low-flow shower heads installed in all the units.  I can’t stand it.  Every morning my showers are totally uninspiring.  The shower stream is so feeble; it feels like I’m getting peed on, instead of getting my clean on.

I meant to pick up a new bathroom rug to go in front of the toilet, but I didn’t like the ones they had.  My current one is perfectly functional, but I had a bit of a laundering mishap.

They used to match.

I washed all the bathmats together, along with the dark blue ones I have in the other bathroom.  Oops.  Don't know why only the one turned.  First time in 30+ years of doing laundry that I ever had a color mishap.  Time to start a new streak.

Anyway, the shopping trip was successful.  And I was able to find just the screws, so I didn’t have to buy a whole new toilet seat.

So when I came home, I had some chores to do.

First, I replaced the toilet seat screw and tightened up the other one.  Good to go!

Tool use: pliers and screwdriver.  Ding! 2 bonus points.

I replaced the shower head, with a very simple 3-way spray number.  And when I fired it up, the water came out with a nice “woooosh!”  I may never have to clean the shower glass again.  Morning showers have been much more bracing, ever since.

Tool use: pliers.  Ding!  1 bonus point.

When I took off the old one, I could see a lot of grit collected in the in-flow screen.  I’m sure that’s what was killing the water flow.  I could have cleaned it out and put it back on, but: A) I had already opened the package for the new one, and B) even when it was new, the water flow was still pretty piddly.

Then it was time to get serious… I had to assemble my new vacuum cleaner.  It was easy, though, no thanks to the directions, which were conveniently printed on the box flap.  All I had to do was attach the handle to the base, using two screws.

This might have been a job for my power screwdriver, but alas, it was not charged.  (Damned thing loses its charge in no time.  I really have to plan for using it, so to charge it up the night before.)  But I had a ratchet screwdriver, and that did the trick.  I probably would have had to use it anyway, because the screws didn’t go in very easily.  I had to bear down on them.  (Yes, Rik, the ratchet was set on forward, not reverse!)

Five years ago, I would have spent the next couple days in misery, from the hives I’d get from putting that much pressure on the heel of my palm.  But my Delayed Pressure Urticaria seems to have cleared up and is no longer a factor. [knocks wood]  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I felt a little sting in my palm, but by the time I got up in the morning, it was gone. So if that kind of hard pressure on a concentrated area didn’t create hives, I don’t know what will.  Halle-freakin-luiah… only took 14 years.

Tool use: Ratchet screwdriver.  Ding!  1 bonus point.  (If I’d used my power screwdriver, I’d get 2 bonus points… it’s an extra point any time I use a power tool.  Ups the danger / fuckup factor.)

Anyway, after putting it together, I had to take the vacuum out for a spin, right?  This unit must have some serious suction… the canister was filled past the fill line with one vacuuming.  I wonder if there’s any fuzz even left in my carpet.

So that was my “busy day;” I changed a screw, put on a shower head, attached the handle to a vacuum, and swept the floor.  All told, it about 35 minutes of labor, about half of which was the vacuuming.  Whew, I was exhausted!  And that’s why I laugh…

To conserve energy, I waited until this past weekend to try out the attachments.  But they work.  I successfully used the suction brush attachment to clean the dust from my mini-blinds.  I also used the furniture attachment to suction off my couch and throw pillows.  I don’t think that’s ever been done.  (I guarantee it hadn’t been done by ME.)

Had a bit of a problem using the edging attachment to clean out the tracks on my sliding glass door… it kept sucking in the sheer curtains.  I felt like I was in a Lucy sketch or something.

In marginally related grown-up news, my Mom sent me a box of spices this week.  We were talking about seasoning roasted potatoes and I mentioned I’d picked up some rosemary to go on them.  Mom asked if I had any sage.  I didn’t.  Next thing I know, there’s a box of spices being delivered.

So now I have to figure out what to use them on. I emailed her right away.

Hey Mom, what goes best on frozen chicken fingers, tarragon or herbes de provence?

I took a shot at using some of them with swordfish, on Saturday.  I looked up on the internet to see what would go best and came away with oregano, rosemary, and thyme.  I also added black pepper, butter, and lemon juice.

Just to see how much of a difference there’d be, I did one piece with the new spices and the other like I always did before; with just lemon pepper and butter.  (I did add the lemon juice.)

Picture is before cooking.  Forgot to take one after cooking... I scarfed them up too quickly.

Both were good, but the newly spiced piece was much better.  Funny, though… it didn’t just taste better, it was tenderer and juicier.  I cooked them both together in the broiler and both were the same thickness; I don’t see how one could be drier than the other. But it was.  Maybe the spices have some insulating qualities I don’t know about.  I’ll just have to try again.

In the spice box, they also had some loose things… cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and a couple of nutmeg nuts.  I understand I have to use a cheese grater to shave the nutmeg nuts, which means I’ll have to go back to the store and buy a cheese grater.

Because they’re so small, I’ll have to be careful not to grate my knuckles.  I can totally see that happening.  Maybe I can use some pliers to hold the nutmeg when I grate it, the next time I make pasta.

Tool Use / Unconventional: pliers.  Ding!  3 bonus points.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Houston, We Have a Problem

I had to chuckle, last Monday, when I saw the results of the Planned Parenthood investigation in Houston, Texas, where not only did the grand jury not indict Planned Parenthood, but they chose to indict the con artists that created the video.

(I would have written about it then, but was already planning on writing about rest rooms.)

Last August, the Republican Lt Governor of Texas asked a Republican district attorney to investigate the well-publicized but woefully unconfirmed claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal remains.  And for the 8th time, (because 8 different GOP Governors have requested investigations), an anti-choice witch hunt yielded zero proof of wrongdoing, with this grand jury indicting the people who duplicitously produced, edited and distributed the political hit piece.

And still, they want more investigations.  Apparently they’re looking for a DA who will manufacture evidence, the way the videographers did so that they can look tough to social conservatives during an election year.

The one thing is undeniable; that filming people saying they “don’t sell baby parts” and editing it so that they are seen to be saying they “do sell baby parts,” isn’t proof of a crime; it’s proof of a lack of integrity on the part of the anti-choice lobby.

I’m just bummed that the videographers were only indicted on what I consider a technicality; that being the falsification of state driver’s licenses.  I’d much rather have seen an indictment calling them fucking liars and criminals.

As a testament to just how far removed from reality some of these people are, let’s look at the comments from Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX):

It’s deeply offensive and ridiculous that those who illegally sell aborted human body parts get a pass -- while these two pro-life defenders are indicted for using aliases to expose Planned Parenthood’s unlawful and disgusting practices of selling baby body parts.  This decision begs the question: how else could they get the truth?”

First of all, you can tell his statement is primarily for show, as he finds a way to jam “selling human parts” and “selling baby body parts” into a single sentence.  Subliminal messaging much?

Secondly, he is confusing what he wants the conclusion of the investigation to be, with what the evidence says. 

Those who sell aborted human body parts get a pass...

No, they don’t, because no one was selling body parts.  There was zero evidence found.  There is no pass needed.

“…while these pro-life defenders are indicted for using aliases.”

No, they weren’t.  You can say you’re anyone.  But when you falsify a state-issued ID card, that’s crime.  A ticky-tacky crime, but a crime none the less.

“…Planned Parenthood’s unlawful and disgusting practices of selling baby body parts.”

Still no unlawful practices of any kind.  No one sold baby body parts.  This is just more smear; another attempt to keep the illusion of some heinous wrongdoing alive.

This decision begs the question: how else could they get the truth?”

They DID get to the truth.  Rep. Babin just doesn’t like it.  And neither did the videographers, because they edited the truth of “no, no, no” into “yes, yes, yes,” and passed it around like it was the actual truth.

I’ll give the DA credit.  I’m sure she did go into the investigation looking for a trophy to bring home, but in the end, she respected the evidence (or lack thereof).  I’m sure her life would be much easier now if she’d been able to dig up something up, even if it didn’t stick.

What I think is happening now is that the Republicans are “Clintoning” Planned Parenthood; that is, conducting an endless series showpiece investigations, in an effort to keep up negative publicity, exert political pressure, curry favor with their base, and maybe somehow, some way, find an unseen wrong-doing during one of these fishing trips, upon which they can actually bring charges.

Granted, women’s health services spiral down the drain, but that’s not really a priority with these right-to-life types.  They’re only interested in their right to dictate the terms of other people’s lives.